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Team USA may have 'woke a monster' by not picking Clark for Olympics

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Team USA may have 'woke a monster' by not picking Clark for Olympics

INDIANAPOLIS — There are few teams, if any, Caitlin Clark hasn’t made in her life.

Team USA’s Olympic team is one of them.

Indiana Fever coach Christie Sides revealed Sunday after practice that they were on the team bus when Clark — the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer and the No. 1 pick in the 2024 Draft — recently found out that she didn’t make the cut to represent the U.S. at the Paris Olympics.

Her response?

“’Hey, coach, they woke a monster,’” Sides said, reciting Clark.

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Although an official roster has yet to be announced, Clark was not one of the 12 players selected, sources briefed on the decision said Saturday. Clark confirmed the decision Sunday, saying she recently received a call from USA Basketball that her first Olympic experience will have to wait.

“Honestly, no disappointment,” Clark said. “I think it just gives you something to work for. That’s a dream. Hopefully one day I can be there.

“I think it’s just a little more motivation. You remember that. Hopefully in four years, when four years comes back around, I can be there.”

Only four players have ever made the Olympic team the same year they finished their college careers: Diana Taurasi in 2004, Candace Parker and Sylvia Fowles in 2008, and Breanna Stewart in 2016.

In passing on the 22-year-old Clark, USA Basketball ultimately leaned toward a more veteran and accomplished roster featuring Taurasi, Stewart, A’ja Wilson, Brittney Griner, Alyssa Thomas, Napheesa Collier, Jewell Loyd, Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young, Sabrina Ionescu, Chelsea Gray and Kahleah Copper. The youngest players in that group are Ionescu and Young, who are both 26. Ionescu is a two-time All-Star and two-time All-WNBA Second-Team honoree, while Young is also a two-time All-Star, made the All-WNBA Second Team last year and was named the league’s Most Improved Player in 2022.

Clark is aware of the talent and merit of the players chosen over her, calling the Olympic squad “the most competitive team in the world.” The 12-woman roster combines for 18 championship rings, four league MVPs, seven Finals MVPs, 42 all-WNBA selections and 55 All-Star selections. Team USA is also 70-3 all-time in Olympic play, hasn’t lost an Olympic contest since 1992 and hasn’t lost a tournament game overall since 2006. The program is eyeing its eighth consecutive Olympic gold medal, which would break a tie with the men’s side (1936 to 1968) for the most consecutive Olympic team gold medals in history.

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“We all know how talented that team is,” Clark said. “You look at that roster, (there are) a lot of players I’ve already had the opportunity to play (against) in this league that are just so good, and I know they’re gonna go out there and dominate, and I’m gonna be watching and cheering for them. It’ll be a lot of fun.”

Asked if she’d consider joining the team as an injury replacement, Clark said it would be “a great opportunity” but was noncommittal. She added that Team USA is already “in pretty good hands” with the 12 players who were initially chosen.

While Clark said she was excited to watch her countrywomen, her coach made it clear that the self-proclaimed “monster” would rather be playing alongside them.

“That’s pretty scary, right?” Sides said of Clark using her Olympic omission as motivation. “She’s one of the most competitive people that I know. But she’s a worker, and that’s what she’s gonna do. This just gave her another opportunity to get in the gym and do more work.”

Clark is averaging 16.8 points, 6.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds through 12 WNBA games. She was named the WNBA Rookie of the Month for May after leading all rookies in points per game, field goals made, 3-point field goals made, free throws made and minutes played.

After being held to just three points — her career-low in college and the WNBA — in a loss at New York on June 2, Clark bounced back five days later by nailing a career-high seven 3s en route to tying her career-high with 30 points in a win at Washington. It still hasn’t been smooth sailing for Clark, who is shooting just 37.3 percent from the field and leads the league with 5.6 turnovers per game.

Even before her pro career began, Clark was one of 14 players to receive an invite to the U.S. national team’s final Cleveland-based training camp in April ahead of the Summer Games. The rookie may have had a better chance to make the Olympic team had she played directly with and against the players in the pool. However, although Clark was in Cleveland at the time, she was unable to attend the camp because Iowa advanced to the Final Four. The Hawkeyes ultimately lost in the national championship against undefeated South Carolina.

Despite the quick turnaround from her illustrious college career and her highly-anticipated pro debut, Clark still wanted to represent her country in the Olympics. But she’s not complaining about having a midseason pause to recharge and refocus after the Fever’s staggering start. Indiana played 11 games in 19 days to begin the season, the most compact schedule since Washington played 11 games in 20 days to open the 2007 campaign. The Fever will play its last game before the Olympic break at Dallas on July 17 and will resume play Aug. 17 at home against Phoenix.

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“It’s gonna be really nice,” Clark said about the anticipated break. “I’ve loved competing every single second, but it’s gonna be a great month for my body to first of all get rest and get healthy, and just get a little time away from basketball and the craziness of everything that’s been going on and just find some peace and quiet for myself.

“But then additionally, it’s a great opportunity for us to work and get better.”

Required reading

(Photo: G Fiume / Getty Images)

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Rafael Nadal, Carlos Alcaraz confirmed as Olympic doubles pair for Spain

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Rafael Nadal, Carlos Alcaraz confirmed as Olympic doubles pair for Spain

Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz will represent Spain as a tennis doubles pairing at the Paris Olympics, which begins on July 26.

David Ferrer, the former world No 3 and current national selector for Spain, announced at a Royal Spanish Tennis Federation (RFET) press conference on Wednesday that Spain’s men’s team will include Nadal, the 22-time Grand Slam champion, Alcaraz, the three-time Grand Slam champion, Pablo Carreno Busta, and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Marcel Granollers, a doubles specialist whose partnership with Argentinian Horacio Zeballos is currently the best in the world by combined ranking, is also included.

Ferrer said that he believes Nadal and Alcaraz “have the capacity to win a medal in doubles” after the team announcement.

This will be Alcaraz’s first Olympics, coming after his title defence at Wimbledon, which begins on July 1, and his recent victory over Alexander Zverev in the Roland Garros final last Sunday. Nadal is currently on the entry list for Wimbledon, using his protected injury ranking of 10, but said after exiting Roland Garros that playing “wouldn’t be a good idea.”

Nadal, who already holds a singles gold medal from Beijing 2008 and a doubles gold medal from Rio de Janeiro 2016 with Marc Lopez, will compete in his last Games. Although he has not announced his retirement date, he has not ruled out a return to the French Open in 2025 after losing to Zverev in the first round this year.

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Paula Badosa, meanwhile, will not feature due to WTA rules. Badosa has chosen to use her protected injury ranking to enter the next two Grand Slam tournaments, at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, which begins in late August; the former world No 2 was not permitted to use that ranking for both tournaments and the Olympics. Sara Sorribes Tormo and Cristina Bucsa will be Spain’s representatives on the women’s side.

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100 days until the Olympic Games – is Paris ready?

(Candice Ward/Getty Images)

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Ricciardo’s Montreal upgrade hinged on 'self-therapy' — not Jacques Villeneuve

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Ricciardo’s Montreal upgrade hinged on 'self-therapy' — not Jacques Villeneuve

There was a point towards the end of last year when there was a genuine feeling that Daniel Ricciardo was lining up to take Sergio Pérez’s Formula One seat at Red Bull for 2025.

Ricciardo made clear upon his mid-season return to the grid with AlphaTauri (now RB) that getting back in the Red Bull, the same seat he vacated back in 2018, was his ultimate target. As Pérez struggled through the second half of the season, suggestions of that happening only grew.

But, Ricciardo did very little to press his case in the early part of 2024. He frequently trailing teammate Yuki Tsunoda and, besides his run to P4 in the Miami sprint qualifying and race, had not delivered a points finish ahead of Canada and sat 14th in the driver standings. Meanwhile, Pérez performed well enough to secure a contract extension through 2026, ending Ricciardo’s hopes of moving up anytime in the near future.

Off the back of Pérez’s confirmation, Ricciardo acknowledged he had to “hold myself probably accountable for not doing anything too spectacular” this season. “When you’re trying to fight for a top seat, you need to be doing some pretty awesome things,” he said.

By the Canadian Grand Prix, Ricciardo’s tough start to the season had changed his aim from fighting for a top seat to fighting for his current seat.

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No one went further in questioning Ricciardo’s future than Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 F1 world champion who was part of Sky Sports’ broadcast team for his home race in Montreal.


Jacques Villeneuve leveled harsh criticism at Daniel Ricciardo in Montreal. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

“Why is he still here?” Villeneuve said of Ricciardo, asking why he continued to struggle with his cars and declaring that “his image has kept him in F1 more than his actual results.” A brutal takedown, one that quickly went viral given how rare it is for a pundit to be so outspoken on an English-language F1 broadcast.

Villeneuve was harsh — perhaps too harsh — but few would dispute the element of truth in what he said. Ricciardo has been clear throughout this year he knows he’s not been doing a good enough job, and has plenty more performance to find.

Just 24 hours later, he found it. In tricky, windy conditions, Ricciardo not only made it through to Q3 for just the second time this season, but he stuck his RB car fifth on the grid, within two-tenths of pole position. Perfect timing, particularly off the back of Tsunoda’s confirmation at RB for 2025 only 90 minutes earlier.

It meant Ricciardo entered the media pen after qualifying with some of his old swagger and sparkle. He knew the questions that were about to come, that Villeneuve’s name would come up. Ricciardo hadn’t fully listened to what had been said about him, he said, only that he “heard he’s been talking s—.”

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“But he always does,” Ricciardo continued. “I think he’s hit his head a few too many times, I don’t know if he plays ice hockey or something. But yeah. Anyway. I won’t give him the time of day.” Then came a “but…” and a lean in close to the microphones: “All those people can suck it! I want to say more, but it’s alright. We’ll leave him behind.”

It was only qualifying, after all. We’d seen this kind of flash from Ricciardo in Miami in the sprint, only for it to disappear when it mattered in the grand prix sessions. This was nevertheless a perfectly timed clapback to Villeneuve’s criticism.

But to directly link the two would do Ricciardo a disservice. He revealed that after Monaco, he made a concerted effort to try to understand why things weren’t working, going beyond his on-track performance and data such as braking points or corner speeds. It required calling on not only the team’s management and engineers, but also his inner-circle off the track, and asking them to be open books with their feedback.

MONTREAL, QUEBEC - JUNE 09: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Visa Cash App RB VCARB 01 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Canada at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 09, 2024 in Montreal, Quebec. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Ricciardo qualified P5 and finished P8 over a rainy weekend in Montreal. (Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

“It was like, OK, what are maybe some other things that are affecting my performances?” Ricciardo said. “Am I coming into a race weekend not feeling energized or not feeling this or that?

“I think I just had a little bit of good self-therapy after Monaco, and just sat back and had a look at maybe the things I’m doing wrong away from the track. Or giving too much of my time to people and by the time I get to race day or something, I’m a little bit more flat.

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“Deep down, I know what I can do, and it’s just making sure I’m in this spot to be able to do it more often.”

And making sure that those flashes of pace turn into something valuable when it matters on Sunday. Ricciardo’s Canadian Grand Prix was far from straightforward, with a creeping car on the start line — which Ricciardo suspected was due to a clutch issue — triggering a jump start and a five-second penalty. He managed to survive the chaos and benefit from some late incidents to grab four points for P8, nearly doubling his total for the season. That alone in the high-pressure conditions felt like a success to Ricciardo.

“All in all, (I’m) happy,” he said. “These races, it’s hard to be perfect. I made mistakes, obviously we were just trying to survive at times. So (I’m) just happy we got there in the end.”

MONTREAL, QUEBEC - JUNE 09: 8th placed Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Visa Cash App RB celebrates with fans after the F1 Grand Prix of Canada at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 09, 2024 in Montreal, Quebec. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Canada marked the first points-scoring grand prix for Ricciardo. (Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

The greater takeaway for Ricciardo from the Montreal weekend was that it went well from the moment he turned his first laps in FP1 right to the race. For the first time this season, every single session felt positive.

“It’s nice just to be competitive from Friday through to Sunday,” Ricciardo said. “I’m happy. (I’ve) just got to keep it rolling.”

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Ricciardo has time on his side when it comes to proving to Red Bull what he can do and securing an extension with RB. If it wants to make a change, then reserve driver Liam Lawson is ready to step up, as the young Kiwi proved through his five-race stand-in when Ricciardo was injured last year. But there’s no reason for the team to rush into making that call yet.

Ricciardo will hope Montreal serves as a turning point in his season, a breakthrough after the earlier lifts to better understand where he was going wrong. Importantly, he also wants to ensure he keeps the feeling he brought to last weekend.

“That little energy, that little bit of a chip on my shoulder I brought into the weekend, I’ve got to make sure that stays there, and just keep that level of intensity,” Ricciardo said.

“Sometimes being a little bit… I don’t know if I need to be a bit angry or just get my testosterone up. But I think it helps me.”

(Lead photo of Daniel Ricciardo: Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

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Will the best Celtics player please rise? There's a long list of nominees after Game 2 win

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Will the best Celtics player please rise? There's a long list of nominees after Game 2 win

BOSTON — Considering his 26-point, 11-rebound effort in the Celtics’ 105-98 victory in Game 2 of the NBA Finals Sunday night, does that now make Jrue Holiday Boston’s best player?

Or, with Derrick White meeting P.J. Washington at the rim and making a stunning block of a would-be running dunk with 50.5 seconds remaining to keep the Mavericks from closing to within three points, does that transform White into Boston’s finest?

We are, after all, living in an NBA postseason in which recency bias has become a thing. For that, stick tap to Mavericks coach Jason Kidd, who is playing head games while everybody else is just trying to play basketball. His twice-said Saturday comment that Jaylen Brown is the Celtics’ best player created quite a stir but also opened up a runway for the recency bias crowd to put it out there that, well, Brown did emerge as MVP of the Eastern Conference finals. And that, went the goofy logic, meant Brown, and not Jayson Tatum, is Boston’s “best” player.

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How Celtics took command of NBA Finals with Game 2 win over hurting Mavs

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And now, while mulling all that, consider what happened after Game 2 Sunday night when Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla arrived in the interview room for his postgame news conference. The first question had something to do with Tatum, but Mazzulla instead pivoted to what happened on the last possession of the third quarter when Payton Pritchard, who had just entered the game in place of Holiday, raced up the court and delivered a 34-foot buzzer-beating bank shot to give the Celtics an 83-74 lead.

Proclaiming it “the play of the game,” Mazzulla noted that “you see guys around the league pass up on that shot or fake like they want to take it, so that their numbers don’t get messed up. He takes pride in taking that, and that’s winning basketball.”

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Mazzulla didn’t stop there. “That first and foremost should have been the first question,” he said. “The ability of everybody on our team to do different things that lead to winning.”

Mazzulla then went here: “I’m really tired of hearing about one guy or this guy or that guy and everybody trying to make it out to be anything other than Celtic basketball. Everybody that stepped on that court today made winning plays on both ends of the floor, (and that’s) the most important thing.”

What an exchange. It began with a question about Tatum that tuned into an answer about a 3-pointer by Pritchard, and it ended with Journalism Joe explaining which question should have been batting leadoff. It was goofy, sure, but it was absolutely brilliant in that it had the effect of turning Kidd’s comment about Jaylen Brown into an exploding cigar.


Jrue Holiday’s 26-point, 11-rebound effort in Game 2 was foremost among many great performances for the Celtics. (Peter Casey / USA Today)

Such was the Celtics’ across-the-board effort in Game 2 that it became folly to proclaim this or that player Boston’s top performer. You could have gone with Holiday because of the 26 points. You could have gone with White because of the block. But wait! If Mazzulla had had his way, Pritchard would have been extra, extra, read all about it. And as if anyone needed yet more evidence that Kidd really stepped in it with his attempt to bring a little discord to the Celtics locker room, consider how Holiday conducted his affairs at his postgame conference.

With Mazzulla, it was all about telling the media people what the first question should have been. With Holiday, it was all but providing an answer before a question had even been asked.

First, some background. On Saturday, Holiday was asked if he had any thoughts on Kidd’s remark about Brown and replied, “I don’t think he’s lying.” Which was taken to mean he agreed with Kidd’s remark.

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When he arrived in the interview room after Game 2, Holiday got right down to business.

“If I could say something before we jump in, I want to address the comment that was made yesterday,” he began. “I feel like people kind of took that out of context. I’ve been hearing that I prefer JB over JT, and that’s not what that was. I like to praise my teammates. I like to praise my teammates when they’re playing well, and I feel like that’s what I did my best to do.”

He went on to say that “… to compare them is something that I would never do because they’re two completely different players as well as being on the same team, and the things that they have done in this organization and the things that they have done against me as an opponent, I say, like, how they play together and how they work together is something that is sacred and something that can’t be broken.”

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Jason Kidd’s challenge to ‘sacred’ Brown-Tatum partnership fuels Celtics’ Game 2 win

What’s interesting about all this — no, make that what’s amazing about all this — is that last season ended with Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens practically being delivered a mandate to build a better team and not rely on the dazzling talents of Tatum and Brown to deliver a championship. And by trading Marcus Smart and bringing in Kristaps Porzingis and Holiday, it’s safe to say Stevens did indeed build a better team. The Celtics’ best-of-show 64-18 regular-season record will attest to that.

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But if you want to talk team, and not just from the perspective of how the roster looks but also from the perspective of its character and soul, consider how the Celtics countered Kidd.

Brown and Tatum essentially stayed out of it. Holiday submitted a scrapbook playoff performance and then opened his postgame presser with Holiday’s Soliloquy, during which he spoke emotionally about his feelings for Tatum and Brown, and the camaraderie that’s taking place in the room.

And then there was Joe Mazzulla in the role of Perry White, editor of the Metropolis Daily Planet, deciding what’s news and what isn’t.

Never in the Tatum-Brown/Brown-Tatum era have the Celtics been more of a team than they were Sunday night.

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(Top photo of Jaylen Brown: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)

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