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U.S. to host pre-worlds tourney in New York


NEW YORK — The specific formula is not yet official, but plans are far enough along to speculate with great certainty Team USA will headline an international doubleheader at Madison Square Garden in mid-August prior to the FIBA World Championship that commences later that month in Turkey.

China and France also are scheduled participants. The fourth national team is unknown (to me, anyway) at this time, but it’s not Spain, Lithuania or Greece, since Team USA already is programmed to play exhibitions against all three en route to Turkey.

While the Garden doubleheader is exceptionally appealing (I’ll never forget seeing the original Dream Team perform before it proceeded from New York to Rome where it dominated its 1960 Olympic competition), numerous events are being planned before and after to enthrall fans of all ages.

For two weeks, New York City will become a basketball festival. Aside from the doubleheader, Team USA’s practices will be in town (site remains undetermined) and some may even be open to the public.

What’s more, the Pete Newell-coached 1960 team (Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Jerry Lucas, Walt Bellamy, Terry Dischinger, Bob Boozer, Darrall Imhoff, Adrian Smith, Les Lane, Allen Kelley, Jay Arnette and Burdette Haldorson), and the Chuck Daly-coached ’92 team (no refresher course is necessary, I suspect) will be duly honored in various ceremonies.

All three delegations of dignitaries will take a timeout and travel to Springfield, Mass., for the Aug. 13 induction of the ’60 and ’92 teams whose nominations are a committee away from certified culmination . . . along Karl Malone and Scottie Pippen and, confidently the majority of other deserving individuals under consideration — Dennis Johnson, Jamaal Wilkes, Gus Johnson, Bernard King, Tex Winter, Chris Mullin, Jerry Buss, Cynthia Cooper, Richie Guerin and Bob Hurley, Sr.

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Hasheem Thabeet’s chances of benefiting from being demoted to the Dakota Wizards depends on one of two things:

The Development League team must have a legitimate big man coach — a big man, in other words, able to teach the raw Tanzanian the nuances of the low docks, something the Grizzlies conspicuously lack, which is inordinately strange considering they flaunt a league record four 7-footers — or an expert transplant surgeon adept at replacing hands that cannot catch.

Jamaal Tinsley is the Grizzlies’ sole maker of plays with the ability to spoon feed Thabeet a pass in the right spot he could intermittently handle and do something constructive with.

When Memphis coach Lionel Hollins replaced Marcus Williams as Mike Conley’s backup beginning Feb. 6, the No. 2 overall pick of last June’s draft, who leads all rookies in blocked shots, became worthless.

The deported Thabeet averaged 1.2 blocks in 10.3 minutes per game. His totals are 58 and 516. Oh, yeah, he also managed 144 points.

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Little known things about well-known people department:

Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo played high school ball for coach Doug Bibby at Louisville Eastern before finishing at Oak Hill (Va.) Academy.

Doug Bibby’s father is Fred, who was good enough coming out of Fayetteville (N.C.) State to make the Baltimore Bullets; a wrecked knee jump-started a high school coaching career in Richmond, Va., and Doug followed in his footsteps.

One of Fred’s brothers is Henry, a two-time champ at UCLA and once as a Knick; he’s currently an assistant coach with the Grizzlies.

Jim, who recently died at 65 after a five-year battle with cancer, was Fred’s other brother. You know him better as the Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher who started Game 7 of the ’79 World Series (went four innings and gave up one run) and helped beat the Orioles after Baltimore had taken a 3-1 lead.

Fred and his 10-year-old son Doug were in the stands that night and later celebrated with Jim in the dressing room and watched President Carter offer congratulations.

One summer, when Rondo was at Kentucky, Doug Bibby arranged for him to spend some quality time in Sacramento where his game dramatically improved working out with Mike Bibby.

Three Degrees of Separation sounds more like it.

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If Orlando thinks it can beat Cleveland in a seven-game series, I hope another version of their play is available some place on a DVD.

Owners of an 18-point lead at one time last Friday, the Magic melted like the wicked witch of the East in the fourth quarter (14-28) vs. the Hornets and lost going away, 100-93.

Sounds like Orlando is a title contender?

Real title contenders smell the kill and go for the jugular. The Magic, having amassed 50 points in the paint in the first three quarters and a lousy four thereafter, settled for jumpers and went for jug band music.

Peter Vecsey covers the NBAfor the New York Post.