Russia earns date with USA in quarterfinals after cruising past New Zealand

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russia.jpgAs expected, it is USA vs. Russia on Thursday in the FIBA World Championships quarterfinals.

Russia filled out its half of the bracket beating New Zealand 78-56, showing off some of the defense and the inside game that will give the USA their best challenge since Brazil (and maybe their best challenge so far period).

The defense the Russians ran was effective — it held New Zealand to 29 percent shooting in the first half — but it was also different than what the Russians did a lot in pool play. They have a very good matchup zone, but they ran exclusive man-to-man against New Zealand. You can bet the Americans will see the zone.

The man-to-man worked, but the game stayed close, it was just 32-36 at the half. The real difference in this one ended up being foul trouble for New Zealand’s best scorer Kirk Penney. He had three first half fouls but the Tall Blacks (New Zealand’s nickname) had to stick with him because they needed the points.

But when Penney picked up his fourth foul three minutes into the second half, he had to sit. Russia then went on a 15-3 run, and it was over. Penney finished with 21 in this one.

Russia also did a good job exploiting their height advantage. The Russians start 6’11” Sasha Kaun (the former Kansas Jayhawk) and then bring in 7’1″ Timofey Mozgov (he will be a rookie for the New York Knicks next season). New Zealand’s starting center is 6’6″. That’s why Mozgov had 16 points and 7 rebounds, and 6’9″ forward Andrey Vorontsevich added 18 points on 7-for-8 shooting.

The USA have some height up front with Lamar Odom, Kevin Love and Tyson Chandler, but this is the best front line the USA has taken on so far. That was supposed to be a way to attack the USA, you can bet the Russians will.

Thursday is when it gets real serious for the USA, a team with the talent to win the gold but one raw and one capable of having the one bad game that costs them as well. Thursday is when the USA starts to face teams that can really make them pay for those days.

Thabo Sefolosha found not guilty

Thabo Sefolosha
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Thabo Sefolosha clearly believed in his innocence.

The Hawks wing rejected a plea deal of only day of community service and six months probation. That probably would have been easier than a trial.

But Sefolosha opted to fight the charges – misdemeanor obstructing government administration, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Today, he was vindicated.

Robert Silverman:

Sefolosha, who missed the playoffs due to a leg injury that seemingly occurred during his arrest, has made his case clear: New York police targeted him because he’s black. Given everything else we know about policing habits, that’s certainly believable.

We’ve also seen video of multiple officers literally pulling Sefolosha in different directions and one striking him in the leg with a nightstick. We don’t know what preceded that video, but especially given the information revealed at trial, it’s difficult to justify that use of force.

This verdict probably sets up Sefolosha’ to sue the NYPD.

Report: Some Hawks executives doubt Danny Ferry’s contrition

Danny Ferry, Mike Budenholzer
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Since his racist comments about Luol Deng, Danny Ferry has mostly avoided the public eye.

He apologized through a couple statements released around the beginning of his leave of absence. He met with black community leaders. He claimed “full responsibility.”

A cadre of NBA people vouched for him. A law firm the Hawks hired to investigate themselves essentially cleared of him of being motivated by racial bias.

But there’s another side.

Kevin Arnovitz and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

Ferry’s efforts at contrition sometimes fell short to some inside the organization. Several Hawks executives were at times put off by Ferry’s behavior during a compulsory two-day sensitive training session, especially since they considered his actions triggered the assembly in the first place. He came across as inattentive and dismissive of the exercise, some said, and fiddled with his phone quite a bit. Ferry contends he was taking notes on the meeting.

“It was awkward for everyone because I had not seen or been around Hawks employees for three months,” Ferry told ESPN this summer about the sensitivity training. “I took the seminar seriously, participated in the role-play exercises and certainly learned from the two-day session.”

the Hawks satisfied Ferry on June 22 by releasing both the written Taylor report and a flowery press release in which Hawks CEO Koonin was quoted saying, among other things, that “Danny Ferry is not a racist.” Some Hawks executives grumbled that the team overreached in exonerating Ferry, but doing so — not to mention paying Ferry significantly more than the $9 million he was owed on his “golden ticket” deal — was the cost of moving on.

I don’t know whether Ferry has shown the proper level of contrition, whether he was playing on his phone or taking notes.

But I know what he said:

“He’s a good guy overall, but he’s got some African in him, and I don’t say that in a bad way other than he’s a guy that may be making side deals behind you, if that makes sense. He has a storefront out front that’s beautiful and great, but he may be selling some counterfeit stuff behind you.”

He was not reading directly from a scouting report. He did not stop when his paraphrasing repeated a racist trope.

That’s a problem.

I don’t think Ferry intended to say something racist – but he did.

It’s a fixable issue, though. Through introspection and a desire to change, he can learn from this mistake. Maybe he already has.

That some around him don’t think he took that process seriously is worth noting. They might be off base, and Ferry obviously disagrees with their perception. But this is a two-sided story despite the common narrative focusing on Ferry’s redemption.

It’ll be up to any potential future employers to sort through the discrepancies.