USA vs. Argentina: I am no longer afraid

August 21, 2008
I feel the same as Bolt for USA's game against Argentina (image from BBC's Olympics 2008 blog)

My confidence level is about the same as Bolt's for Team USA's game vs. Argentina (image from BBC's Olympics 2008 blog)

For a year I have been worried. Beginning the moment that Team USA finished up the FIBA Olympic Qualifier last summer, doubts crept into my mind.

What if a key player gets injured (LeBron), convicted (Melo), engaged (all of them — they’re NBA players)? What if Colangelo makes an asinine roster mistake? What if any superstar attitudes that were pushed selflessly to the side during the qualifier emerge during the Olympics? And worse: what if none of this matters because the international competition is simply too good now?

After only six games, only 10 days, though, I have put all fear behind me.

With Argentina waiting tomorrow morning (10:15 am ET, USA network I’m assuming), I am almost unable to even imagine a scenario where Team USA does not walk away with the W and march onward to the gold medal game. The team is playing too well, their defense (save for some occasional slap your forehead lapses) too scrappy, their desire too fierce.

More importantly, Argentina is a squad full of NBA players. Trust me, this is a good thing. Manu Ginobli and Oberto play on the Spurs — a team that has been playing long into the post season for numerous years now. That’s built in scouting right there. Additionally, Kobe and Prince have both matched up against Ginobli in important games before, so they know what to expect.

Likewise for Nocione and, to a lesser extent, Scola. Both played on playoff teams recently and are good enough to have garnered some attention.

Then there’s Delfino. Delfino… well, whatever, he’s just Delfino.

The point is, Team USA has performed well against all the teams they have faced in these Olympic games with NBA talent. They beat China (two current, one former, one future NBAer) by 31, Spain (four current, one former, two future) by 27, and Germany (two current) by 49.

Meanwhile, they “only” beat Angola and Greece by 21 and 23 respectively, neither of whom has a current NBA player on their squad.

This isn’t a knock on the USA scouting staff. It’s simply easier to get up for a game against a rival, and it’s easier to play against opponents that you have game familiarity with.

With the final goal so close to being realized and the team rolling, Argentina should prove to be nothing more than a turnstile for Team USA: an obstruction offering little resistance, and the only thing between USA and a shot at gold.

Hornets New Unis

August 21, 2008
Hornets get classy by going recent retro with an update (image from an attendee of unveiling, via forum on hornetsreport.com)

Hornets get classy by tweaking their late 90's retro look (image from an attendee of unveiling, via forum on hornetsreport.com)

It’s official, the Hornets have the illest threads in the L starting NOW. Pinstripes, a la the Glen Rice days. Perhaps the Hornets will follow in the NFL mold of improved success with a new look (Pats, Bucs, Seahawks, etc.) and take the trophy this year. They’ve got to be in contention even without the makeover luck, so now, who knows?

Go here, here, and here for pics, and then here for video. Big nod to Hornet247 and SLAM.

Honestly McCain!

August 18, 2008
Did you know that dishonesty is a top trait of pre-historic creatures?

Did you know that dishonesty is a top trait of pre-historic creatures? (image from LATimes.com)

Please forgive the brief diversion from sports — my take on the US destruction of Spain (and nuclear holocaust of the German squad) will follow shortly — but this article (from the New York Times) needs to be discussed.

I flipped back and forth between the Olympics and the Presidential Forum with Rev. Rick Warren on Saturday night, mostly to catch what Obama had to say. But after Obama had his time with the Reverend, the Olympic events weren’t really holding my attention, so I decided to catch a fresh soundbyte or two from McCain. I ended up watching most of his hour-long portion.

I found myself surprisingly impressed with McCain’s overall performance at the event. Granted, it was a no teleprompter affair, so McCain didn’t have to face down his biggest nemesis, but he was relaxed, straight forward, a little funny, and overall, came across as a more intelligent and less anger invoking version of the Republican candidate that I remembered. In fact, I even called my father the next day to express that exact sentiment.

Well, this is most likely why McCain performed so well:

Senator John McCain was not in a “cone of silence” on Saturday night while his rival, Senator Barack Obama, was being interviewed at the Saddleback Church in California.

Members of the McCain campaign staff, who flew here Sunday from California, said Mr. McCain was in his motorcade on the way to the church as Mr. Obama was being interviewed by the Rev. Rick Warren, the author of the best-selling book “The Purpose Driven Life.”

The matter is of interest because Mr. McCain, who followed Mr. Obama’s hourlong appearance in the forum, was asked virtually the same questions as Mr. Obama. Mr. McCain’s performance was well received, raising speculation among some viewers, especially supporters of Mr. Obama, that he was not as isolated during the Obama interview as Mr. Warren implied. (read rest of article here)

Allow me to be brash: this is bullshit.

This being the morning after the report leaked (I believe it went up on the site late yesterday), I haven’t read or heard a massive backlash in response to this story. But I can’t imagine I’m the only one who feels this way. I feel slighted, lied to, absolutely taken advantage of.

The whole point of a forum is for the candidate to react, think on his feet, and answer some hard hitting questions (at least a few — there were a number of soft balls lobbed by Rev. Warren). Getting the questions in advance, gauging crowed reaction to an answer, and knowing how best to differentiate yourself from your rival is a marked advantage.

McCain’s manner of speech was too easy, his responses too calculated. There was much less of the bumbling and stammering than prior engagements. Did he listen to the entire Obama portion of the Forum? I bet he listened right up to the point of exiting his motorcade. After nearly eight years of a Presidency where I feel like I have zero knowledge of what decisions Bush and his cronies are making, dishonesty is tops on my list of qualities a candidate should not have.

Give me straight talk, give me honest thoughtfulness, and give me a willingness to make a mistake or two (a President is a human too) — as long as you own up to them when you do.

Don’t give me scandal and diversion. Don’t give me that bullshit.

I suppose what I’m saying is give me Obama. To hell with McCain.

UPDATE: More possible McCain lying shamockery, this time from the Huffington Post, where blogger Mark Nickolas notes the blogosphere buzz surrounding the discovery that McCain’s “cross in the dirt” POW story may not be his story at all.

The Dare to Dream Team

August 14, 2008
A fitting summation of the day

A fitting summation of the game (image from USABasketball.com)

At times, it was almost magical. There were moments so inspiring that I stood up from my chair in the empty newsroom of my grad school, yelled to myself with a silent, mouth open roar (so as to not break the spell), and celebrated with arms flexed, just as I saw Chris Bosh do later, just as I once did during my own playing days.

The moments were entrancing, engulfing:

  • Dwyane Wade’s steal/save/alley-oop to Kobe Bryant’s most emphatic finish since christening Dwight Howard
  • Kobe Bryant’s over the shoulder flip to a cutting Wade for the strong, hanging and-one finish
  • Chris Bosh’s numerous improbable lay-ups, scored after absorbing hard contact and nearly inhuman body contortion (perhaps the best in-air body control I have seen from a PF before)
  • Chris Paul’s near destructive inside out dribble on a Grecian defender who only remained upright thanks to a screen from a USA player that prevented his descent into infamy
  • LeBron James’s Harlem Globetrotters-esque slipping spinning dribble to lay-in
  • The successive LeBron James and Chris Bosh block, a tangible exclamation point on the statement: this is for the last time, this is for all time

    Read the rest of this entry »

The Unease Before the Storm

August 13, 2008

Is tomorrow the day that this image is rectified? (image from NBA.com)

So this is it. It’s now just a little under 24 hours before the game that should be the heart of Team USA’s motivation takes place: a rematch with Greece, the team that beat the US squad in the FIBA World Championship semis, and officially made it clear that the Dream Team glory days were gone for good. The team assembled for those FIBA games was a constructed team, one built to best compete against the international brand of basketball, one built to rebound from the bronze medal finish in the 2004 Summer Olympic Games. Greece showed that the building was unstable – it had flaws in its architecture.

Tomorrow morning is the chance for a small salvation. It’s the game that DWade, LeBron, and Melo have been replaying over and over since that 101-95 loss.

And how did Team USA prepare for the game? By looking lackluster against Angola, that’s how.

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Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way

August 11, 2008
Team USA was ready on Sunday (photo from NBA.com)

Team USA was ready on Sunday (photo from NBA.com)

If there is one thing to take away from Team USA’s game against China, it’s that the intensity displayed by Coach K’s squad is the most promising thing I have seen from USA Basketball in the last six years.

Was it a perfect game? Not by any means. Jason Kidd continues to be turnover prone in his older age. Kobe Bryant was out of rhythm (his first jumper hitting the side of the backboard a la Richard Jefferson of the Bad-Dream Team). Melo never got involved on offense (neither on his accord or the rest of the team’s). Redd spent too much time on the bench while the rest of the team spent too much time missing 3’s. And the entire team went for too many perimeter steals, which led to some uncontested looks for China.

But none of that mattered; the will to dominate was apparent. Surely the fact that they were playing the home team in front of a packed, pro-China/pro-USA house helped keep the energy level up. China’s decision to try and play uptempo with them early on helped as well.

Regardless, the old fire was there.

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What Socrates Thinks About Team USA’s Chances

August 6, 2008
Is it possible that Team USA is not the best of this vast expanse?

Is it possible that Team USA is not the best of all the teams in this vast expanse? (image from AccuWeather.com)

In case you haven’t heard, the Olympics are about to start. I know, it snuck right up on me too!

If there’s one thing I’m looking forward to more than NBC’s bastardizing Sirius/XM-like monopoly of all coverage 5 rings, it’s the constant scrutiny every sports media outlet in the damn country is placing the Men’s Basketball Team under.

I mean, I get it. Team USA lost the gold medal last Olympics. I am aware. Argentina, right?

But lets clear something up right now. The rest of the world is better. Two times for those who learn best through repetition: The rest of the world is better. You know it, I know it, the criticizers, quotemongers, ESPN talking heads, blogosphere residents-everyone knows it. So lets all take this into account and stop acting like USA should be utterly dominant. It’s a new time. Deal with it.

Should Team USA win the gold medal? I think this is where all of this scrutiny comes from: people are having a hard time coping with the fact that the gold medal isn’t a guarantee. Can you handle the fact that maybe, possibly, there is better national team out there?

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USA vs. Turkey: Live Blogging

July 31, 2008
Team USA takes their show to China for their 2nd of 5 pre Olympic exhibition games

Team USA takes their show to China for their 2nd of 5 pre Olympic exhibition games, this one against Turkey (photo from Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE, found here)

And we’re here. Good morning to all. This will be a mostly live blog of Team USA’s first pre Olympic tune-up game being played in China. Now, to the action:

  • A little internet delay, so here’s your recap of the first few minutes. ‘Bron’s back (starting in place of Wade), and he looks focused. Hedo Turkoglu won’t be playing today. USA looks solid coming out. LeBron drives to the cup, Melo splashes a J, Howard turns the ball over. About right.
  • Turkey has a couple of recognizable players. International basketball really is making a huge impact on the NBA.
  • Bron hits a three, Melo hits his second from nearly the same spot as the first.
  • Turkey is wearing soccer length jersey tops, and half of their players have them untucked. I don’t think I approve of that very much; it just looks sloppy.
  • Jason Kidd continues his inexplicable high shooting percentage from last year’s FIBA tournament as he hits a top of the key three.
  • Team USA then promptly gives up an alley-oop lay up on D as Turkey beats them down the court.
  • Chris Bosh hits a very Bosh-esque lay up (awkward looking, body turned in a weird angle) off of a feed from Kobe, putting the score at 20-15 US.
  • LeBron drops a gorgeous dime to Bosh for a quick two.
  • Turkey quickly misses a three, US goes the other way but botches a Kobe to James oop that would have blown up the arena, and Turkey comes back with a quick lay-up.
  • Dywane Wade, checked into the game for 5 seconds, uses his international play go-to move: the charge. And it’s good! Turkey ball.
    Read the rest of this entry »

Are the Words the Weapons?

July 30, 2008

One of the controversial Nike ads hung at the West 4th station

If you’ve been following the business section of the news lately, you may have heard about the firestorm Nike stirred up with its ad campaign for the release of the new (and supposedly revolutionary) basketball sneaker the Nike Hyperdunk (I want a pair — any givers for a broke Grad School Student?).

A brief summary for those who don’t feel like following the link: Nike’s ad campaign shows tightly cropped, staged pictures of one player dunking over/on another, with the dunker obviously sporting his Hyperdunks. The controversy lies in the fact that the player getting dunked on has the the dunker’s crotch in his face. Each picture has its own slogan, like “That Ain’t Right” for example.

Many people are claiming that the ads play on homophobia, a rampant problem in the world of sports.

Many others are claiming that the homophobia is not the intent of nor is it inherent in the ad, and that people are merely digging for something to dispute.

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Sports + Intelligence ≠ Oxymoron (always)

July 30, 2008

In my opinion, there is increasingly less well written, intelligent, and thoughtful sports writing than in most other genres of writing. Maybe I missed the memo on this one; maybe sports are supposed to be aimed at the “common man,” and maybe this “common man” likes only four things: short sentences, simple vocabulary, beer, and chicken wings. Maybe a sports writer was the one who created this cliche in an article at some point, in which case maybe the majority of sports writers today are catering to a self-created stereotype.

Or maybe not. Whatever.

Regardless of the reason, the most common form of “intelligence” found in sports writing comes across in humor, attempted or achieved (*this blogger guiltily raises hand*).

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