After reading two of Lang Whitaker’s Team USA game notes on Slamonline (and contemplating having my own blog for over four months), I decided I had to interject my own two cents on all zero of my readers with my own game notes of Team USA’s FIBA qualifying tournament run. The (no)contest tonight features team USA versus Uruguay. Bill Walton can go uncriticized by the blogs I read for only so long before I must step in and restore order. Quite truthfully, the praise that Lang was heaping on Walton of late almost made me think that I was being too harsh on Mr. Verbosity. Thankfully, the first half reminded me that the foundations of my world have not been shaken to the ground–Bill Walton is still my equivalent to fingernails on chalkboard. Before the second half gets underway, here are my thoughts on the first half:
*Jason Kidd’s no-look drop off to LeBron for his signature dunk was nasty. And it brought about this thought: at some point I think throwing a pass to where you are looking will be the equivalent of the no-look pass in today’s game. Don’t take this as hate, but I knew, as I’m sure the majority of other regular basketball viewers did, that Jason Kidd would look towards the other option on the break but choose to pass to James. The pass worked, Kidd effectively looked off his defender and opened the lane for the dunk, but at some point, won’t defenders take this tendency into account? Surely then the passer will have to counter, and counter he will, with a simple, telegraphed chest pass.
*Walton was extremely disgruntled at the fact that twice the USA tried to save the ball from under the opposing team’s basket. The first play, a failed save attempt by Kidd, was a bad decision. Conversely, the second attempt, where Stoudemire was called out of bounds, was a smart play. Teams are so focused on stopping the USA’s transition game that four of Uruguay’s players were beyond the three point line by the time Amare got close to the ball. He was directing the ball to an open teammate with minimal pressure on him. I see no harm done.
*Uruguay is allowed to travel. It’s true, it was in the rule differences display at the start of the game. The court length is shorter, the three point line is closer, and Uruguay can travel. You should pay more attention.
*Saunders was joking that he and Uruguay were thinking the same thing when LeBron got on the break (and dunked on an embarassingly indecisive Uruguayan player): “uh-oh.” Walton segues this “uh-oh” sentiment into something like this: “Uh-oh is exactly the what the residents in New Orleans were saying from their houses when Hurricane Katrina hit. Tomorrow is of course the two year anniversary…” Wait wait wait, what? Bill? Really? Talk about forcing your agenda–I guess he felt the need the check Katrina’s anniverary off of his list with his other first half tid-bits.
*Amare hits a three to close out the half. It’s his second attempt of the game, and his second make of the tournament. I remember reading somewhere, perhaps in Slam or on Slamonline, that just before Amare hurt his knee (the original injury, not the re-injury), he had developed three point range. This is the first I have seen of it, but he has a good looking jump shot, nice form, good rotation. Damn what Walton says, it’s a good tool to have in the bag, for Amare and the Suns. I mean, a pick-and-pop is a good change of pace to throw in with a damn near unstoppable screen-and-roll, is it not?
*Oh yeah, LeBron hasn’t missed yet. He was definitely feeling it during the first half. More on this later.
Now to the start of the second half:
*LeBron starts out on the bench. With his shirt on fire. Apparently he’s still hot.
*Walton just recalled the first time he saw Arvydas Sabonis play, saying that Sabonis was 19 and dominating (let me just say he’s one player I wish I had seen in his prime due to all the stories I have heard of his prowess over the years). I’m pretty sure Sabonis was 62 during the Blazers playoff runs, and those were at the turn of the century. Bill Walton has apparently smoked himself into believing he is younger than 80.
*Batista with another strong post move and finish. Someone needs to explain to me why Batista is hidden on the Hawks. Seeing as though Hawks games are never televised, I’ll go out on a limb and guess that he does not play like this regularly.
*Amare looks less fragile tonight. For a few games I was getting worried that his new training habit of mainly speed and cardio in place of heavy lifting, resulting in him dropping 15 pounds of muscle, was going to change his effectiveness (he is still a power forward after all). I’ll have to wait and see how it works during the season, but for the time being, his lighter weight doesn’t seem to limit his finishing in the post or rebounding much.
*Uruguayans love leaners. Perhaps Walton can tell us if Uruguay has the highest rate of Vertigo diagnoses in the world. Nothing on that one Bill?
*I’m not sure how many times a drop step-reverse lay-up is going to fool Dwight Stoudemire, but Batista continues to use it effectively.
*Tyson Chandler did something PRODUCTIVE–which for him means something athletic and close to the hoop!
*Tyson Chandler just looked at a loose ball bounce less than four feet away from him without even flinching! Then trotted back on D when he was the 1 on a 1-on-2!
*”Talk about unorthodox, I’m really looking forward to the new Chinese player, Yi, coming in.” -Bill Walton
*Maybe Amare’s ear band aid is like Nelly’s eye band aid. Who wants to make a bet on how long it will take Darko to start rocking one?
*While we’re on break between the third and fourth quarter, here is my take on LeBron’s “hot” games: LeBron, like all young players, does not have a fully polished game yet. He lacks a consistent (getting there though) jumper. He does not lack court vision, body control, finishing ability, or desire. When ‘Bron gets hot, it basically just means that his jumper is falling. What that allows is a melding of his freaskish athleticism with his elevated shooting touch, making him downright scary to opposing teams. When you can’t give up the jump shot to James, what DO YOU give up? Apparently, a lot of points and highlights. Think Chauncey and Tayshaun are enjoying the show more this time around?
*USA is very bad at zone.
*Another in-game update on one of Bill’s favorite musicians. Sadly, it is Bob Dylan, so I must give him my nod of approval.
*Chandler with another productive outburst! He is a very lucky man to be teamed with Chris Paul, otherwise he would be watching a lot of games courtside.
*Is it just me, or are the Uruguayans trying to bank about a third of their three point attempts? Must be that vertigo thing again…
*Uruguay has converted on exactly 0 of their running floaters today.
*The length of Tayshaun Prince’s arms never ceases to amaze me.
*Chandler turns the ball over trying to pass out of the post, then blocks the 5’7″ (I don’t buy 5’9″) Martinez. A quick shot to the bench shows Jason Kidd laughing with LeBron and Howard. It’s good to see Jason Kidd smile, he doesn’t do much of it in New Jersey. Vince Carter ≠ teammate smiles.
*I’m not sure if you’re allowed to move out of bounds on a set ball in international play or if Uruguay can do that just because they’re allowed to travel. That one slips by Saunders and Walton. I guess Bill wasn’t watching the TV set on that one (as Lang pointed out, he and Saunders don’t seem to be live from Las Vegas as they claim to be).
*Tyson Chandler with another reverse alley-oop. No more cracks on him. I won’t lie, I wouldn’t mind having him on the Celtics.