Team USA routes France. What did we really learn?


Thumbnail image for durant_USA.jpgAs expected, Team USA routed France, 86-55.

We talk about how Team USA is sending a “B” team to the World Championships (Kobe, LeBron, Wade, Melo and more are staying home) but France also has six NBA players not suiting up, including Tony Parker. So what we know for one thing is that the basketball talent pool in the NBA is much deeper than France. Well, not sure we learned that so much as were reminded.

What things did we learn, or at least learn to look for going forward?

* The USA has a lot of work to do on half court offensive execution. Coach K said as much after the game.

The USA’s half court offense early on seemed to be about half-hearted high picks and waiting for dribble penetration from a guard. In the second quarter they got better about trying to exploit mismatches (like anybody on Rudy Gay) but that was sporadic. The spacing was poor at times and there was a little too much isolation and not great player movement. They can do that against France and still win handily, but by the time of the knockout stages of the World Championships there will be teams that can slow the USA running game down, not turn the ball over as much, and force the USA to beat them in the half court. This needs to get better.

* Russell Westbrook looks like he may be the last guy cut (there are 13 guys on the roster right now, that has to be at 12 by Aug. 26). Both Stephen Curry and Eric Gordon looked good with their burn against France, while Westbrook did not get in until late and, while not looking bad, didn’t look as good as the other two. It was thought Gordon and Curry were fighting for one roster spot, but both have simply played too well not to be on the roster.

* The first quarter by the USA was just sloppy. Five turnovers, they missed open looks (Kevin Durant had a few of those in what was an off game for him, but he still finished with 14 points) and at one point France was up three.

* The USA halfcourt pressure man-on-man defense really bothered France, as it will most teams. A few forced 24 second clock violations, forced turnovers that led to chances to run. This is a long and athletic team that can be a defensive force on the wings.

* The USA also ran a lot of zone defense, and they seem to be getting better at it. You need to be good at it in international ball, however, because they run a lot of it in European leagues and guys recognize how to attack it much better than America players tend to. France broke it down a few times beautifully, and Chauncey Billups said that China broke their zone a lot in a scrimmage. Something to watch going forward.

* Lamar Odom looks good playing inside using his quickness and length. He really has a game that’s a great fit for international basketball as a big.

* Not a lot of burn for Kevin Love, who is still getting over a bruised calf, but when he was in you see why he is so key — the outlet pass. Nobody in the league is better at it than him, and on a team that wants to run like the USA that skill is crucial.

* France’s Nicolas Batum… I love his game. I think he could have a big year on a Portland team primed for a breakout year (if they can just stay healthy).

* Billups is good. Very good. Rudy Gay is amazing in the open court. Again, not things we learned but things we were reminded of.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry

The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.

Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks

Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Byron Scott

Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.

Kobe shotchart season

So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.

They just need to get Kobe better looks, Scott told the Los Angeles Times.

“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….

“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.

“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”

Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.

Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.