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Archive for the ‘ Olympics 2008 ’ Category

You Send, I Post

By on September 14, 2008

People have been sending me mad cool stuff from around the internet, and this blog has been out of town (Adirondacks, Gustav, and San Francisco, in that order) for most of the last 3 weeks, so I haven’t had a chance to post it.

  • Stu Holdren from NBA Noise sent me this wild and crazy Toyota Sequoia that’s being auctioned on Ebay. It’s an All Star Game themed car that’s got a mini-replica of the New Orleans All Star court, which is signed by Chris Paul among other super famous NBA names. It’s also got a 32 inch TV and (I missed this the first time around!) is decorated in BASKETBALL. You know, like some cars are made of all leather interior? This one is made of orange basketball. Seriously. Go have a look. And hey, if you’ve got $69,000 kicking around…
  • Cox Sports TV (Ch. 37 in New Orleans) announced that they’ll carry 65 Hornets games. When you add in the previously announced nationally televised games, that’s a total of 78 Hornets games on TV. Which is apparently the most the team has ever had. That’s not counting NBATV games that haven’t been decided yet, either. CST isn’t doing any preseason games, unfortunately. And if you have Direct TV or Charter, you’re still pretty much screwed. OTHERWISE, Matt thinks the TV schedule is hype-worthy. And I agree.
  • New Jordan CP shoes are out in the world… they look a little busier than the first version. Chris Paul was actually wearing them in the photo shoot a couple weeks ago with the new uniforms. (Thanks to Mark for the pics.)
    CP back view

    CP back view

    view of 2009 CP shoe

    2009 CP shoe

    And finally, CP3, LeBron, Deron Williams, Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard eat Wendy’s in a gas station next to, as Chris Paul astutely notes, a rack of Pennzoil and Slim Jims. Hilarity. (Thanks to Ethan for the link. And Chris Bosh for being so awesome as to YouTube stuff like this so we can all giggle over it.)

  • And look, I finally upgraded WordPress, and henceforth my pictures will have cute little captions. Only today they’re not cute because I just got off a plane. And now– I’m out like Darrell Arthur and Mario Chalmers at rookie camp…

This is how it happens.

Team U.S.A. finishes the preliminary round by beating Germany 106-57.  Then they take out Australia 116-85.  Next, a bit of revenge against Argentina, 101-81.  They Americans then find themselves posed to strike at the Gold.  At redemption.  No one told, Spain though.  The first offensive set for the U.S. is stagnant, and Lebron predictably jacks up a 3 at the end of the 24-second clock.  He makes, it though.  So is that a good thing?  Should I stop my complaining and just jump on the love train?  At the other end, Gasol gets it deep in the paint and earns an and 1.  The U.S. is losing.  It sets the tone for most of the first quarter.  Kobe and Lebron both pick up 2 quick fouls, and the U.S. is facing their biggest deficit of the Olympics.  However, Wade and Paul retaliate with brutal drives to the basket to which the Spaniards have no defense, and suddenly that lead is gone.  One thing is for sure: neither team is going anywhere.

VictoryA steal from CP3 and just a possession later a sick drive and a shot that has no business going in goes in–and one.  Could this finally be Chris Paul’s coming out party?  Calderon is already out for this game and Ricky Rubio has hyperextended his wrist.  Their third string PG picked up his third foul late in the first quarter.  They should give it to CP every time down the floor.  Wade with a steal and reverse jam and the U.S. is up by four; he and CP are killing the Spaniards.  It’s almost funny when the crowd gets upset at a string of fouls called on Spain; Lebron and Kobe have been sitting for five minutes each, and the fact of the matter is, the Spanairds just don’t know how to stop Wade or Paul, and, consequently, the two guards are racking up points at the line.  Still, the U.S. gives up more points than they have in any quarter this Olympics, but they also score more than they have in any other quarter.   All said, it’s 38-31 at the end of the 1st, and suddenly things seem okay.

The second quarter is chaos.  Howard starts it off with an obvious flagrant foul, and Rubio starts taking over with Kidd back in the game.  The Spanish zone defense is forcing penetrators to kick it out to 3s way too often, and the Gasol brothers are slowly grinding it down in the paint.  It’s not long, though, before Coach K goes back to Paul and Wade.  CP immediately throws it from half court to Kobe under the basket for an easy 2; I’m getting a warm feeling inside and I don’t think it’s the Abita I’ve been drinking all night. Less fouls are getting called now, and the play is getting chippy.  You know, I’m really trying to keep an open mind about Lebron, I’m feeling I’ve been too negative about him this Olympics, but then he takes a pass from CP on the break, gets a 3-on-1, and takes it himself, only to makes it (though misses the free throw after the foul).  It’s the wrong play.  I don’t care if he put it in because he is a physical freak.  It was the wrong play.  If he ever learns to play well with others he’ll be the most unstoppable force in the league.  (Not named Chris Paul, that is.)  You know, one of our Achilles’ Heels in international play in the past several years has been 3-point shooting, but we started off 8-11 tonight.  Not bad. Nonetheless, Spain holds serve and it’s 69-61 at half. Breen and Collins inform us this is the smallest lead we’ve gone into halftime with so far this Olympics.

This game is on pace to be the highest scoring game in Olympics history, so I’m holding my breath to see where this game goes next.  The third quarter starts with a lot of no calls on both ends and I’m secretly wishing the NBA was called like that.  With the physical strength of guys in the NBA today, it’s almost a joke to give these guys an and 1 on a touch foul.  After a few minutes, it’s obvious that the starting line-up is struggling again; the lead is down to four, and I continue to be amazed by Coach K’s unwavering loyalty to these guys.  Unless, I suppose, his actual strategy is depth, and he’s just thinking that bringing Bosh, Wade, and CP in on Spain’s back-ups is like a death sentence on the Europeans.  Finally, at about the five minute mark, CP, Wade, and Bosh return; Kobe and Lebron stay in, though I’d just as soon see Boozer come in for James.  No such luck, but Team U.S.A. is keeping their composure, using good ball movement to get it inside; the Spaniards are hacking us by strategy, but we’re making our free throws.  CP to Wade on the break, a quick jumper, and just like that the lead is ten.  I know I’m talking mostly about Americans here, but damn if some of these Spanish players aren’t playing the game of their life.  Navarro has been unstoppable, and he ends the third with a drive on D-Will.  Just beautiful.

I kind of forgot what it’s like to be tense about a basketball game, what with the steamroller effect we’ve seen from these guys thus far this Olympics.  Apparently we’re 1-7 from three point range in the second half, and Spain goes on a 7-0 run to start the fourth.  It’s a two point game.  Can it really only be Hornets fans that are desperate to see CP13 back in the game?  Wade penetrates and kicks it to Kobe who penetrates and makes a sick runner–I really stop to wonder if it’s even fair to post a team with both those guys.  Let alone a team with 12 of them.  But Spain’s proving it’s not all about the individual, because they’re hanging in there.   HOLY CRAP!  Rudy Fernandez, soon to be a Blazer, just did a monster dunk over Howard.  How good is this guy?  But honestly, with CP back in, could you ask for a better game manager?  How many times last year did the Hornets lose a 4th quarter lead?  Once? Twice?  Still, only a five point game with three minutes left.  Oof, I might have just heard a fat lady clearing her throat.  Kobe just picked up a four point play after getting fouled by Fernandez on a 3, which, incidentally, fouled Fernandez out of the game.  Okay, then Spain for three.  Down to four.  Two minutes left.  CP to Wade.  For three.  Count it.  The Americans are feeling it.  We’re at the fouling point now.  CP goes to the line and Doug Collins calls him “money” from the line.  7-7 tonight. Who’s to argue? Yeah.  Spain is out of control now.  After fouling Kobe, they pick up a technical, giving us another two.  So make that four free throws and the ball.  This one is in the books.

The team is going wild.  And to their credit, they all run over to Doug Collins–who announcing now, was part of that disputed 1972 Olympics when we lost to the Soviets, and because of technical disputes, we to this day have not accepted those silver medals–and shake his hand.  I can’t wait to see them all on the medal stand.  But, seriously, with CP on board, was it ever in doubt?  Let me answer that one for you.  No.  Congratulations Team U.S.A.  Redemption achieved.

Olympics Game Four: Spain

By on August 16, 2008

I’m going to go right ahead and ruin the surprise: Team USA wins. 119-82. The much-touted match-up turned out to be a rout. Let’s try impressions from the squad, player by player, saving overall comments for last:

  1. Jason Kidd: our starting point guard. It’s not just opposing teams that are ignoring him, even his own teammates are pretending he’s not on the floor if another player brings up the ball. Interestingly enough, he’s starting the 2nd. Our lead steadily decreases. Once CP comes back in for Kidd, that lead balloons again. Shock. Midway through the 3rd, he takes and makes his first shot of the Olympics. How long before the press is countering attacks on his offensive game by saying he’s yet to miss in this tourney and is now 1255-0 in international play?
  2. Kobe Bryant: our starting shooting guard. Not much on offense so far, but he’s continued his excellent defense. The Chinese call him “Little Flying Warrior.” He picks up his 3rd foul in the mid 2nd, and I’m glad the announcers commented on exactly what I was thinking: these international refs are inexplicably calling touch fouls on some plays and ignoring blatant hacks on others (I’m not writing this post in order, and I’ve already chronicled several examples of this below.) In the second half, he continues to be inconsistent on the offensive end.
  3. Lebron James: our starting small forward. The announcers are touting his defense because last game he made a few isolated spectacular plays; so far he’s got two steals to his credit that other players actually tipped free. His fast breaks are a mind-boggling mix of opposing players too scared to stand in front of him and take the charge and refs too awestruck to call his obvious pushes, elbows, and charges. Case in point, he just clotheslined some guy and somehow drew a foul on him. Oh well, he’s on our team for now. Too much trash talking, though, and the refs give him a warning to cut it out; I guess they don’t call techs in the international game. Okay, check that. They just gave Spain’s Reyes a technical, which awards two shots, the ball, and counts as a personal foul. So what was it they gave LBJ just a minute ago? Strange. Collins and Breen don’t care to explain the difference. He made a lot of noise in the first half, but hasn’t done much in the second. Although, to be fair, he’s made several good passes so far.
  4. Carmelo Anthony: our starting power forward. Another quiet game, but not many mistakes, and he’s hit a couple 3s early. He’s starting to fit well into the offense, realizing that Kobe/Wade and Lebron are the focuses of the offensive, and taking what he’s getting. Unfortunately, he picks up his third foul midway through the 2nd. He’s come out on fire in the 3rd, knocking down 2 quick 3s on feeds from Lebron. He might have created more damage, but sat a lot in the 4th when the game was in hand.
  5. Dwight Howard: our starting center. Several nice rebounds and jams, but a couple stupid fouls; and damn if these international players don’t know how to sell the fouls (unless they’re guarding LBJ, apparently). You’d think he would be schooling the Gasol brothers, but not so much. Howard is a beast in the NBA. Is there something in the international game that is slowing him down? It might be that Coach K seems to be running the offense through the 2-4 positions.
  6. Chris Paul: the first point guard off the bench. The announcers are talking about how the team has improved their pick and roll defense; you have to wonder if CP, master of that move himself, has kept his mouth shut on how to defend it. Shortly after he came into the game, Spain put in 17-year-old Ricky Rubio; the announcers reveal CP is one of his idols. Now Lebron is out; instantly CP starts moving the ball better on USA’s offensive sets, and the team has built its biggest lead yet. Wow, he somehow just intercepted an alley-oop meant for Spain’s center, and then through it Drew-Brees-style to Wade at the other end of the court for an easy 2. That didn’t even make sense. Despite the harm it might do to the Hornets’ season, I say Team USA should keep him on the floor for the rest of the tournament until the Chinese give him a nickname. Anyway, in a game where we’re in foul trouble, CP continues to pick up fouls against defenders that have no idea how to stop him within the confines of the rules. Wow, Rubio is fast, when CP switched off him on a pick play, he stopped dead and exploded past Prince and drew the foul. Damn, then a one-handed alley-oop from Rubio at the 3 point line, followed by forcing CP into a travel. Fuck, this kid is 17. Ah, there we go, CP drives at Rubio, and gives him a nice head fake to draw the foul just under the rim; CP’s been at the line all half. His first play in the 2nd half is a steal from Navarro and a coast to coast drive for 2. He drives again on the next drive. He’s unstoppable. Nice alley-oop on the drive in the 4th to Howard; CP seems to be the only one to know how to use him. More steals and fast break passes, and half-court alley-oop tosses that should be astounding the world; for New Orleans fans, it’s just another day in the office for the world’s greatest player.
  7. Dwyane Wade: the first shooting guard off the bench. He came in early when Kobe got in foul trouble. He continues to be aggressive on defense and explosive to the rim. The only thing that seems to stop him is Coach K putting him on the bench. If anyone were to ask which player has been dominant in this tourney, the only name that sticks out is Wade’s.
  8. Tayshaun Prince: the first small forward off the bench, though with the substitution what it is, he’s about the last person to play the position. Nonetheless, we see an early sighting of him at the start of the 2nd. He scores quick and may be one of “zone-buster” guys; next play is an alley-oop to James. With his lanky form, he’s been stifling on defense, really making the most of Kobe sitting so much. No sightings in the 3rd, though, with Kobe back on the floor. He does make it in in the 4th, though.
  9. Carlos Boozer: the first power forward off the bench, kind of. He’s the 11th guy to enter the game, and actually comes into to play the 5 near the end of the 2nd. He’s subsequently boxed out from every rebound by taller Spanish players. I don’t blame him; I blame the coach for putting him in this situation. You have to love his quiet work ethic and hard work, nonetheless. Here’s a prediction: he will get garbage time in the 4th. At the 5. Ha. Call me Nostradamus.
  10. Chris Bosh: the first center off the bench. Somewhat quiet today. In reviewing this post at halftime, I actually don’t have anything else to say about him. Bummer. He’s getting plenty of time in the second half, and is all over the place; how a guy that big has such hustle is incredible.
  11. Deron Williams: the second point guard off the bench, but comes in at the 2, sending our actual 2 to the 3, and our 3 to the 4. I hate Coach K. A couple sets in a row he brings it down instead of CP: on one his strong pass goes up to a quick 3 miss with no one under the rim and the other is a throw away. I think D-Will’s a tremendous baller, and is probably one of the guys affected by a lack of minutes and a constantly changing role (1, 2, or maybe even 3…)
  12. Michael Redd: the second shooting guard off the bench, the 12th player to see action overall. Interesting that before this ever happens, the announcers are criticizing the U.S. for not catching and shooting against the zone. Something, perhaps, Redd is comfortable with? He finally makes it in at the end of the 3rd. He catches and shoots. He also gets some garbage time in the 4th. Not much to write home about.

Despite all my griping, this was a stellar game. But here’s a note to Coach K: your starting line-up should be CP, Wade, Kobe, Boozer, and Bosh; with D-Will, Lebron, ‘Melo, and Howard off the bench; and mostly sitting Prince, Redd, and Kidd. That’s just my two cents, plenty would disagree. I think what few would argue with, though, is that CP and Wade should both be starting. That said, you really can’t go wrong with almost any line-up when you have this caliber of talent. What I really wish is that Coach K would be more consistent. I wonder if he will be in the Medal round?

It seems like we get flashes of brilliance from several guys, but if they had longer to get in a groove and establish their rhythms with their teammates, I think we’d see an even more effective American squad. We’re doing well, but I think we could be even better. Which is scary, as we’re already winning games by 20+ points.

Free Agency Catchup

By on August 14, 2008

** Update: Pargo is going to Russia’s Moscow Dynamo. **

Okay, been busy with that whole thing over in China, so I’ll make this recap quick. Kind of.

  • The Big Swap: three teams made a massive trade, so we’ll do it team by team:
    • Cavaliers: get Mo Williams (from Bucks); luckily, he cares more about scoring than playing PG, which is handy with Lebron on your team.
    • Bucks: get Damon Jones (from Cavs), Luke Ridnour (from OKC), Adrian Griffin (from OKC); I guess this clears up some heavy contracts and gets them a pass-first, if average, PG to go with Redd and Jefferson. I like it.
    • OKC: Desmond Mason (from Bucks) and Joe Smith (from Cavs); this gives them two good players now, and incidentally, this deal will mean that between these guys and those already on the roster, OKC will have about $26.4 million in expiring contracts for Summer 2009.
  • Andre Iguodala: finally got his deal from the 76ers, 6 years and $80 million. 76ers are looking young and dangerous now.
  • Hawks: made a bunch of useless moves, signing former-Piston Flip Wilson to a contract, turning back rumors that he might be headed to Europe (the same report suggested Pargo might be considering Europe also); they also picked up undrafted free agent forward, Othello Hunter, and guard, Thomas Gardner, who’s played four whole games with Chicago.
  • Michael Finley: looks to be re-signing with the Spurs.
  • Josh Powell: Lakers signed this former-Clipper forward. Woo.
  • Francisco Elson: the Spurs’ free agent moved North to sign with the Bucks; always love when the oversized West loses big men.
  • Dan Dickau: this former Hornet, a quasi-cult favorite in the short time he played here, respected for his hard work and dedication, decided to take a European vacation–and I’m not talking Chevy Chase–with Italy’s Avellino team.
  • Kyle Weaver: the Bobcats’ second round draft pick was traded to OKC for their second round draft pick next year…talk about speculation…and disappointment in Weaver?
  • Louis Amundson: the Suns signed this young energy player, hoping to continue their make-over under new coach, Terry Porter.
  • Jaycee Carroll: another young player, after performing well in the Summer League, but getting no guaranteed contract, has decided to head overseas: agreeing to a 1-year deal with Italy’s Siviglia Wear Teramo.
  • Pops Mensah-Bonsu: has ruled out a return to the NBA, and plans to play for Joventut Badalona.
  • Andre Barrett: this ex-Clipper guard is headed to FC Barcelona; the story sounds like a broken record now. What does this mean for the future of basketball?
  • Rafer Alston: arrested on DUI charges. Now he’s hanging on police officers’ coattails.
  • Brandon Roy: sadly, BR needs arthroscopic surgery to repair damage to his meniscus (knee); although, this type of injury might put him out a month, not a year.
  • Shaquille O’Neal: call him the Big Reconciliation; word is he and Shaunie have stopped their divorce proceedings. (Yes, I admit it, I shamelessly wanted to get in on the Give-Shaq-A-Nickname Sweepstakes…but seriously, congrats, Big Guy!)
  • Zaza Pachulia: the Hawks’ Georgian superstar appeared on CNN Wednesday to discuss the Russian-Georgian conflict. “I am not trying to talk about who is wrong and who is right,” Pachulia said. “The most important thing to me is that there be peace, and that the people of Georgia not have to live in fear for their lives or their homes.” As I write this, I’m sitting safe in my house, in my safe country, watching a bunch of people swim around a pool live from half a world away. It’s easy to take that existence for granted.
  • Nate McMillian/OKC: the current coach of the Blazers said he has no intention of letting Clay Bennett hang his jersey in OKC, saying he never played there. Hmph.
  • Jason Kidd: in his best assist of the Olympics, he called out the Spanish team, for their ridiculously racist photo, which even after international outcry, they insist was good-natured humor. This isn’t about being PC, it’s about respect. What were the Spaniards thinking? Kudos also to Kidd for saying that it is ridiculous to argue that this is FIBA jurisdiction and Stern needn’t take action against the players involved.

Oh, and word is out that the Hornets will soon make their official announcement about the new team jerseys!

Olympics Game Three: Greece

By on August 14, 2008

A revenge game, as our guys take on the team that knocked us out of the last World Championships.  This team is good and  poses a huge danger to us.  Let’s see how it goes by position, such as it is.

PG: Kidd picked up three fouls in the first two minutes.  CP’s come in and instantly improved the ball movement. He’s also smartly realized the tenor of the game and picked up two quick fouls on Greek players with his penetration drives.  This may be a factor as he drives to the rim on the fast break and the Greeks look afraid to touch him (plus the replay shows a sweet head fake like he was going to pass it off behind him).  Followed by a CP steal and feed to Kobe under the basket.  D-Will starts the 2nd, but quickly moves to the 2 when Wade goes out; CP back in, gets some nice ball movement again, but is fairly quiet.  By-the-by, at the 5:08 mark in the 2nd, we’re up 36-26.  D-Will comes back in at point; oof, he just committed an offensive foul, so that’s his second.  Surprisingly, Coach sits him (and brings back CP).  Kidd starts the 3rd.  In short order he gives up a wide open three at one end, fails to get the rebound at the other, and a few possessions later slows down a fast break; how lucky are we to have his leadership and veteran presence?  What the hell?  On a later fast break he tries to throw the ball off the backboard to a trailer and is not even close to reaching anyone.  Right.  Sit down.  CP comes in immediately, but has a few quiet minutes.  CP starts the 4th.  Schools their center on a switch, nice jumper.  Oof, then torched at the other end by a driving Spanoulis. Comes back with a nice pass to D-Will, but DW is fouled.

You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry…SG: Kobe starts off well, but picks up an early intentional foul; the Greeks are frustrating us and it shows.  Wade comes in, but for once is quiet.  D-Will then checks in; doesn’t do much.  Wade starts the 2nd, and gets a great steal and alley-oop to Kobe to start the quarter; and then another steal and a fast-break to Lebron who dunks it home. He then lands funny on a play and immediately asks to come out.  D-Will slides to the 2.  But, before he does anything, Wade comes back in, and quickly makes two nice plays on the offensive end, and then adds a 3 for good measure; how much were the Greeks hoping he was injured?  Kobe back to the 2; how any of these guys know what position they’re playing when, I have no idea.  At halftime, it’s 51-32, maybe Coach will explain it to them in the locker room.  Kobe starts the 3rd.  Nice drive to the rim, takes the contact, still puts in the shot, but misses the and one.  Damn, nice block by Mamba at the other end.  Wade comes in at the 2 and Kobe slides over.  About twenty seconds later D-Will comes in and picks up his 3rd foul (what is with the substitutions?).  Nice dish to Wade for 2.  D-Will starts the 4th.  Makes a few good hustle plays.  Interesting; they go to the Syracuse zone in the final minutes (Coach Boeheim is an assistant coach).

SF: Lebron misses his first two lay-ups.  Kobe moves to the 3. Nice penetration on the feed from CP and he makes the pass to Lebron for the easy lay-up.  Now Wade shifts to the 3; smothering D by him helps hold the Greeks to a 24-second violation.  HOLY CRAP.  Wade just came out of nowhere to snag an offensive rebound over the entire Greek team and then put it right back in.  Hmmm…next play he gets shoved to the ground and then a no call…strange calls tonight.  Kobe moves back to the 3 to start the 2nd; he’s still struggling from 3-point range–there it is!  I told you, Kobe gets a pass from Lebron  (who finally realizes he can’t take on 5 players), and nails a 3 from about four feet behind the line, that is, around the NBA line–why these guys don’t keep to their normal rhythms and do this more often, I don’t know (it would also stretch out the defense).  He then slides back to the 2 and Lebron returns to the 3; Bron-Bron gets a steal and takes it home. After a time out he makes a nice pass to Bosh for 2, followed by a selfish 3 next time by the floor (clank).  Outlet pass to Lebron, he stumbles, and through sheer skill, keeps his balance and the dribble, gets up, and realizing that inexplicably, he’s not being covered, takes two steps and jams it.  Lebron starts the 3rd.  Does nothing.  Kobe slides over, he’s starting to make some shots, which is a good sign for Team USA.  About twenty seconds later, Wade slides to the 3 and Kobe sits.  It’s 69-49 with 2:05 left to go.  He draws a foul on a 3, but only makes 1 FT: must be the trapezoid playing with his head.  Wade starts the 4th.  Makes a few steals, the team is vicious defensively in the fourth, no sign of letting up.  Redd finally comes in with about six minutes to go, but is fairly quiet, though drains a 3 near the end of the game, and does give a dish off for a 3 by D-Will.

PF: Carmelo has done nothing in the first four minutes, but helps put us in the penalty for team fouls at the five minute mark.  Lebron moves to the 4, he is quiet, and then ‘Melo comes back in a few minutes later, who does nothing, and Lebron moves back to the 4.  Wow, ‘Bron just turned down the iso set to pass to an open Wade for 3 (he misses, but it’s the point).  Lebron is picking up some points tonight, but they’re mostly clean-up points.  He’s done little spectacular, really, unless you count thundering home dunks off a loose ball or on a fast break spectacular; my point is, these are all plays Erick Dampier could have made. With Bosh’s return, ‘Melo slides back to the four.  Carmelo starts the third.  Hits a 3 about three minutes in.  Doesn’t do much else; Lebron slides to the 4.  Oh, nice block on the fast break! But on the next possession,   when he’s knocked down under the basket, he looks for a pushing foul instead of getting up off his ass.  Carmelo comes back in right after, who is subsequently blocked twice in a row under the rim; so next time down he decides to try a contested 2 from deep, and isn’t even close. Carmelo starts the 4th.  Does nothing, and Lebron comes in quick, gets a few steals, but one throwaway.  So with it 80-57 at the 6:25, he sits in favor of Prince. Prince plays some good D, but doesn’t see much action on the other end.

C: Howard has to watch his fouls, they’re calling this close. Bosh comes in half way through the first and immediately gets a nice feed from CP; two straight bad plays on D, though–oh, but then he draws a nice charge on Greece’s center.  Howard starts the 2nd, and starts with a big dunk, but then Coach puts Bosh back in at the 7:31 mark.  What the hell?  And Bosh then picks up his second foul with 7:00 to go.  Ultimately, he does take out Bosh, for ‘Melo??  He does get a steal and stumble coast-to-coast, only to miss the lay-up (quickly jammed in by Lebron).  But about a minute later, Coach goes back to Bosh, who closes out the half by avoiding his third foul and getting a rejection on a straight up jumper.  Howard starts the 3rd.  Brings down a couple boards to start. Bosh comes in around half-way through the quarter.  Oh, Bosh’s rejection follows ‘Bron’s!  Bosh starts the 4th.  He plays solid, if undistinguishing.  So at half way through, Boozer comes in.  Boozer.  At the 5.  He’s guarding the line, and there’s no one in the paint.  Why?  Then he struggles against a much bigger center.  Oh well, U.S. wins, 92-69.

Coach:  they said coming in that the Greeks struggled against the zone, but Coach K said he didn’t plan on using the zone; interesting way to ignore your scouts.  He’s yelling at the ref for a non-call early.  Interesting.  CP and Bosh pick up their second foul early in the second–why doesn’t he sit CP and bring in Redd, and also bring back Howard?  Isn’t Coach K used to guys fouling out with 5 fouls?  We’re short big, he might want to be careful.  Apparently, they’re reporting that Coach is going to a 9 man rotation here, so Redd, Prince, and Boozer are apparently all on the outside looking in. The real question is why the hell is Kidd not on the short list?  He looks horrible.  Imagine CP/D-Will feeding Redd all game?  If it’s all about the “team,” and not ego or appearances, why does Coach start Howard and Kidd, both of whom he doesn’t give as minutes as their back-ups?

For once, I’m impressed by Team USA.  Moreover, I don’t feel as if anyone really stood out. That is, the TEAM did well.  I’m really excited about their next game against Spain now.

Olympics Game Two: Angola

By on August 12, 2008

Let’s go live this time, and break it down quarter by quarter.

Q1: off to a sluggish start, and the two teams are only separated by a few points. Every time I think any of the starters are playing well, they do something dumb. Hard to feel too confident about our play. Yet Coach K is not too worried and waits until about the 5:00 mark to bring in CP, Wade, and Bosh, leaving Kobe and Lebron out with them. I mean, I guess Lebron can play the 4, but let’s see if he has the commitment to play down low and rebound. Well, we won’t find out now. Not content, Coach K puts in D-Will and T. Prince. Prince comes out hot, getting a 3 and a steal and a jam. Bosh and Wade both look great. I still don’t like CP and D-Will at the same time, though. In fact, the Jazz just botched a would-be assist from CP.

CP handles the rockQ2:Coach comes back with Kidd, D-Will, Redd, ‘Melo, and Howard. Howard finally starting to dominate. And why not, they say the guy guarding him is several inches shorter. I mean, why not pump it into him every time? I’ve started to notice that though they keep saying the Angola team is smaller, whoever is at the 3 is torching our out of place 3s, shooting over them and dunking on them. Coach K must still be experimenting; he goes to CP, Redd, Bryant, Lebron, and Boozer. Boozer struggling defensively at the 5; and just got schooled at the other end. Feel free to put in a real 5, Coach. Yes, they are a small team, but why not use what size you have to your advantage? Howard was killing them. Why not sub in Bosh at 5 and Boozer at 4? Lebron, other than a volleyball-style kill block just now hasn’t done anything at the 4. In fact, Angola is on an 8-0 run. Honestly, Wade is keeping the team going. In contrast, the ’92 Dream Team was tied at 7-7 against Angola. Then went on a 40-1 run. Yeah. No typo there. Forty-to-One. Great steal and fast break instigated by CP, Kobe makes the extra pass to Lebron, who subsequently elbows the Angolan player in the back at full speed and somehow picks up a foul. Soon thereafter, Lebron goes coast-to-coast for the dunk, and somehow they figure to call him unselfish. This about the guy CP had to yell at to let him do what he does and bring the ball up court? CP with back-to-back steals now; he’s starting to look comfortable. Lebron is going to show like 12 points this quarter, but at least four of those baskets have been lay-ups or dunks on the break pushed by CP. I’m not going to pretend I’m not biased, but it’s CP who deserves the credit for those; and I’m not talking about getting assists, I’m saying the lead got pushed to 55-37, and you shouldn’t look to Lebron as the reason why.

Q3: Kidd continues to be completely unimpressive. I’m not only starting to wonder why he starts, but why he’s on this team. Did Doug Collins just say Kidd is a good 3 point shooter? NBA.com says he’s a 33.7% career 3-point shooter, Doug. Kobe is really struggling this game. Man, Angola has actually shortened our lead so far. Okay, a few steals, blocks, and dunks, and it’s back out to 22. Obviously we’re a better team, but can we beat Spain, Argentina, or even Greece with this level of play? No defense from this team, a few missed shots on this end, followed by some 3s on the other, and Angola is on another 8-0 run. So Coach goes back to CP, D-Will, Wade, Lebron, and Bosh. Lead is at 17, so let’s see what happens. Whoa, D-Will to D-Wade, massive dunk. Good O. Interesting, we’re essentially playing 2-on-5. We keep seeing one guy making moves, and other other breaking to the basket, or falling back to shoot a jumper. Noticeably, these plays do not involve CP. It’s D-Will, Wade, and Lebron, mostly. I have to admit, it’s working now, but I’d like to see more ball movement across the floor, and more players involved in each set. I’m not sure this works against a better team. In a time-out break, they explain how some of the guys went to the Great Wall. “No way I was coming to China without seeing the Great Wall,” said Bosh. Nice to see some cultural appreciation. The announcers spend most of the rest of the quarter talking about how CP sparked the team tonight, and then to prove their point, The One picks up a loose ball and throws in his trademark tear-drop over four outstretched Angolans, to lead the team to a 81-53 lead after three. Memo to Coach K and Cavs fans: Team USA looked 100% better after Lebron sat down and CP was able to get guys to play together.

Q4: The team starts with the same line-up of CP, D-Will, Wade, Prince, and Bosh. Let’s see if Chris can continue to get the guys to play together. Nice ball movement finally between CP and D-Will, and Bosh gets an easy basket inside. Good start. Bosh then pulls an oops on the other end, backing away from the guy leaning into him, and the Angolan travels. How scary might him and O’Neal be together next year? The Angolan coach might be wondering that, or maybe anything else, as he sits quietly, his eyes vacant; I can only assuming he’s gone to his happy place, trying to avoid the pain of this game. Hmmm…feeling successful, Coach goes to Boozer at the 5. I know Carlos wants to play, but he’s got to be sick of playing out of position. Prince is lanky enough to stretch to 4 at 6’9″, but he’s so thin, to have him and Boozer as your big guys? Apparently Redd came in for Wade at some point, too. Redd at 6’6″ I suppose is physically more suited to be a 3 than Wade at 6’3″, but Wade’s game actually translates better to the 3. ‘Melo now in for Prince. I’m not sure how Coach expects his PGs to run the offense when you have different players with different capabilities at different positions coming in and out of the line-up constantly. Can a college coach really coach these level of players? It’s not always about having the best 12 or having plenty of energy. It’s about finding the best eight guys and letting them destroy the competition. Lead hasn’t changed this quarter. Still at 28 with three and a half left. Little of note down the stretch, the Angolans get a little closer, and the game wraps at 97-76.

Man, I’m excited to get another big win, but I think Coach K is really struggling to find the line-ups he likes, and the players who depend on consistent team roles seem to be struggling. I think he really needs to better define each guy’s role and keep it consistent. If you haven’t played with the other guys on the floor prior to the last month, you’ve only played a few games together, and you keep coming in at different spots, for different lengths, and at different times, I’m not sure you are able to be comfortable in what role you are playing for this team. Well, enough complaining.

CP Rules!

Olympics Game One: China

By on August 11, 2008

Small CP13… Big Yao… Solid WinGame one was an expected victory, as the U.S.A. beat China 101-70.  China’s starters were impressive, and held the game close through one, but ultimately lacked the depth to compete with our guys.  When you have CP, Wade, and Bosh coming off the bench as your second line, you know the other team is totally screwed.  Some observations from Game 1:

  • Yao: the man is a national treasure, and opened the game with a 3 pointer to put China in the lead.  Amazing start for China, and a dream come true for Yao.  He played a decent game, at times looking dominant, with 3 blocks and 10 boards, and some nice shots, but surprisingly was only 3-10 from the field.
  • The Three Point Line: was eerily similar to a bad Hornets game early on, as they started out like 7-11 and us 1-9, although we ended up at 10-27 for them and 7-24 for us.  This has been a past Achilles Heel for the team, and may yet prove troublesome; we’re not guarding the line, and we can’t shoot from there consistently, despite our all-star line-up.  I know we are adapting to international rules, and that is smart, but I’m starting to wonder if the guys should be standing a few feet behind the line?  Think about it, but crowding everything in, the lanes are getting clogged, which stops our penetration (and certainly affects CP’s game).
  • The Rotation: everyone and their mother is criticizing Kidd, and even Doug Collins called out the fact that the Chinese weren’t guarding him.  So why start him?  Especially when Coach obstinately refuses to play Boozer or Prince.  Yes, there are 12 guys and only 40 minutes, but with Coach K subbing guys faster than I can figure out who’s on the floor (their numbers are mostly different than from the regular season, and they inexplicably have white letters over white jerseys for their names), he somehow manages to keep these two guys out of everything but garbage time.  Also, why does Coach insist on putting in line-ups like CP, D-Will, and Redd AT THE SAME TIME?  It doesn’t make sense.  Use your 1-5 players; they’re used to playing those positions and will be better at offensive spacing and defensive rotations.  For example, CP seems lost when D-Will is bringing the ball up, and while DW is getting raves for his “zone-busting” drives, he seems unsure of how to move without the ball.
  • Lebron: yes, the man is a freakish talent. Yes, he can explode past three men unawares and rise to the rim.  But when in the half-court, he is predictable.  Either he jacks up an unexpected 3 and no one is ready to rebound, or he does an iso stubbornly refuses to pass, at which point the other team collapses.  Boring.  And stupid.
  • Dee-wayne-Wade: the.  Man.  Is.  On.  Fire.  7-7 from the field and 5-5 from the line.  I’m starting to believe he didn’t just heal up over the end of the last season.  It might be something more even than HGH.  Maybe.  Maybe.  They can rebuild him.  They have the technology…(whoosh whoosh whoosh)…he’s bionic!
  • The Fives: Dwight Howard looked flustered going up against Yao; he smashed home a bunch of dunks, but got only TWO rebounds in 21 minutes, and zero steals or assists.  Meanwhile, Bosh subbed in for him and outmaneuvered everyone.  He nabbed 8 rebounds, got 9 points on 4-4 shooting, and had 3 steals.  In 13 minutes.  Wow.
  • Sun Yue: the “Chinese Magic Johnson,” just signed by the Lakers, looked impressive.  Altough he is the only professional basketball player other than Reggie Miller and Shawn Bradley to actually be skinnier Tayshaun Prince, he was all over the place, bringing home 8 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound, 1 steal, and 1 awesome block on Dwight Howard.  Yeah, you heard that last part right.
  • Carmelo:  well, he was 3-4 from the line.  Otherwise he didn’t hit anything and only pulled down 4 boards, got 1 steal, and no assists.  Hardly the “most dominating PF in the international game.”  On the other hand, Boozer?  5 pts, 50% FG%, 3 boards, 1 steal and 1 assist in 6 less minutes than ‘Melo.  Good call coach.  Oh, and by the way, the two PFs combined posted 22 minutes.  Lebron played a lot of 4.  So did 113 pound T. Prince.  Again, good move coach.  (Add to that the fact that Boozer also played the 5 some and, again, we have to wonder, hindsight notwithstanding, what Team USA was thinking bringing 3 PGs [plus the ball-hog Lebron], while leaving home Tyson.)
  • Kobe: surprisingly, though he had a modestly good game, the Dobermamba was 1-7 from deep.  Ordinarily a good 3 point shooter, it’s surprising he had trouble with this shorter line, from where he should be money.  I know some people will pile on here, but as Americans, we should all be concerned about that.

Obviously, as the score will attest, it was a good game.  We won.  We won big.  Just as you’ve no doubt read elsewhere over and over, our ball-hawking, aggressive defense keyed quite a lot of fast break easy buckets.  But there were a lot of problems we need to work out.  So let’s hope the game tomorrow against Angola will enable Coach K to figure them out.

Everyone wants a piece of CP3

He lost the hat, though. Awww… The hats were cute. (But wait. According to TV, these outfits haven’t happened yet. Carry on. Nothing to see here.)

Chris Paul worldwide

In case you were at work and didn’t watch the USA thrashing of Lithuania, mad ridiculous CP3/Wade give and go dunk in four… three… two… one…

What DO they teach them in these schools?Me! Me! I’m available. And I would never allow this embarrassing grammatical error to grace the front page.

Grammar aside though, to answer the question, I say the lack of size doesn’t make sense. I don’t know why they didn’t bring another big man. They have… Howard, Boozer, and Bosh? And that’s it? A couple weeks ago, people were saying they wouldn’t bring CP because they wanted size. And then you don’t bring a backup 5?

Should have brought Tyson…