Archive for the ‘Basketball’ Category

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.

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

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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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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.
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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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Knowing When It’s Time to Stop

July 29, 2008

Athlete blogs — great, right?

Gilbert’s a beast of a blogger (or shall we say, dictator, from what I’ve been hearing lately). Schilling’s controversial. It offers some great perspective.

Except, when it the perspective it offers is too much. MUCH too much (not to TrueHoop for spotting this).

Scott Pollard’s Offseason Workout

July 29, 2008

*Note:* My intent was to post this yesterday, but I wrote the post from a computer that was not my own, and since the video I wanted to embed was from the NY Times site, I needed VodPod to do so. I decided to wait until I got home, but then the internet (and cable–2 for 2 Time Warner) was down. So, you’ll have to follow the link for now; I’ll embed the video when the possibility presents itself.

I saw a piece on TV about how Rik Smits now races some form of Motocross these days (read article about it here), and it made me think: I wonder what other NBA players like to do as hobbies in their free time?

Now, Rik Smits didn’t ride motorcycles during his career (due to a contract clause, if my memory of the show serves me correctly), so he couldn’t have partaken in Motocross as an off-season training tool, but many players have found alternatives. Steve Nash, for example, rides his skateboard and dribbles his basketball all over lower Manhattan from what I hear.

But Steve Nash is a star, so doing something as mainstream as skateboarding is only fitting. What would a lesser known player do?

What does Scott Pollard do? I mean beside invent hair styles.

It would have to be something outside the norm (follow the link for fun)…

Videos to Appease

July 26, 2008

So I’ve got a little input about the cornily dubbed Redeem Team’s performance versus Canada that took place last night, but until I’ve got time to properly evaluate the situation, enjoy two YouTube clips to tide you over.

The first is a video I saw on Dime Mag’s website, quietly one of my favorite basketball websites. If you don’t know about Ricky Rubio yet, a) you’ve been hiding, but b) you will once the Olympics start. Kid’s only 17.


The second is a metaphor for how Canada’s Carl English felt last night when Kobe stole his cookies, milk, snack pack, soft lunch box with the blue ice pack inside and shoulder strap, AND his membership from whatever hair salon he goes to before coasting in for an unimpressive dunk. Found at a site called FAIL blog (nod to my roomie Andy who is under the knife to repair his shattered wrist as we speak).