The United States and Spain will meet with nothing on the line on Tuesday evening in Barcelona. It’s the biggest, most anticipated pre-Olympic friendly in the world as the two gold medal favorites face off.
Next time they meet, it very possibly will be with the gold medal in the London Olympics on the line.
Which is going to make Tuesday’s game an odd little dance.
Both teams will want to win. Both teams will take it seriously. Both teams would love to send a message with this game. But if you have a strategy or matchup you think really favors your side, you will not pull it out for this game. Keep your powder dry and save the big guns for the real fight.
Spanish players like Marc Gasol have pretty much admitted this is what will be going on. And it makes sense. If you are Spain and you think a zone would be effective against the United States, you might at best throw it in for a few possessions to see how Team USA reacts, but you’re not going to show your hand. Yet.
You can bet Mike Krzyzewski is thinking the same thing. So be careful about taking too much away from this game.
Still, this will be the biggest test of the United States’ biggest weakness — can they handle the size of Spain up front? Spain starts Marc Gasol and Pau Gasol, they bring Serge Ibaka off the bench.
The USA has been much better in the preseason games when Tyson Chandler is on the floor and he is going to have to stay on for long stretches in this game to protect the rim. The United States needs Kevin Love to step up his game and not coast (did you see Andres Nocioni outwork him for a rebound in the last game?). They need to show that LeBron James at the four can both work on the defensive end and be a matchup nightmare on offense. The USA needs their pressure defense to lead to some turnovers and easy buckets.
These are things to watch. But don’t read too much into this game. Both sides are not playing their best cards.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have signed forward Derrick Williams to a second 10-day contract.
The NBA champions have been impressed with Williams, a former No. 2 overall pick, and it’s likely they will sign him for the remainder of the season when his current contract expires. The Cavs announced Wednesday they signed Williams again. He has averaged 9.8 points and 3.0 rebounds in 22 minutes for the Cavs, who have been bringing him off their bench with their second unit.
Before signing as a free agent with Cleveland on Feb. 9, Williams played for Miami this season before being released.
The Cavs returned from the All-Star break Wednesday and will practice before hosting the New York Knicks on Thursday, just a few hours after the trade deadline.
The Hornets are essentially two different teams with and without Cody Zeller.
They’re 22-17 when he plays and 2-15 when he doesn’t. They play at a 62-win pace with him on the floor and a 29-win pace when he sits.
So, with Zeller banged up, Charlotte traded for Miles Plumee. But Plumlee hasn’t provided much, just 3.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 13.4 minutes per game in five contests.
And now he’ll add even less.
The Charlotte Hornets announced today that center Miles Plumlee underwent a Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI), which revealed a second-degree calf strain in his right leg. Plumlee will be out for Charlotte’s game tomorrow at Detroit and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.
The Hornets incurred significant long-term costs ($37.5 million over the next three years) to use Plumlee as a short-term bandage. Without him providing even that, this situation looks bleak.
Depending on Zeller’s health, this could turn Charlotte — 2.5 games and three teams out of playoff position — into sellers before the trade deadline. At minimum, it makes the Hornets less likely to buy.
The Bulls reportedly reached out to the 76ers about Jahlil Okafor a few weeks ago.
After unfulfilled intrigue and maybe a trade that fell through, Okafor remains in Philadelphia. And Chicago apparently still wants him.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
As constituted, the Bulls already have a few interior bigs: Robin Lopez, Taj Gibson and Cristiano Felicio. But one or more could go in an Okafor trade or another deal.
Okafor would make the Chicago younger, confusing its direction with Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade already in place.
Perhaps, the Bulls are pushing for a trade only because they’re offering so little. Okafor’s low-post game offers intrigue. At the right price, he’d be worth adding, no matter the fit and direction presented.
Maybe the 76ers don’t go for a lowball offer, but that’d be worth trying considering their center logjam with Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. Otherwise, Chicago ought to tread carefully when pursuing Okafor.
The 76ers have played like a 64-win team when Joel Embiid and Ersan Ilyasova share the court and a 20-win team otherwise, using data from nbawowy!.
That’s helpful for Philadelphia, which is learning what type of player — a stretch four — works best with its franchise player.
But the Hawks can use more than just a lesson in the idea of Ersan Ilyasova. They can use actual Ersan Ilyasova.
And Atlanta will get him.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated:
Atlanta stills sound intent on keeping Paul Millsap, so Ilyasova will likely back him up. Ilyasova should work particularly well with Dwight Howard, whose interior play was a key factor in ushering in this stretch-four era by covering for the lighter power forward next to him.
In the last 21 months, Ilyasova has been traded five times: from the Bucks to the Pistons to the Magic to the Thunder to the 76ers and now to the Hawks. They can probably count on the veteran to settle in quickly as they try to improve their position in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Atlanta is fifth, closer to third than sixth.
Both Ilyasova and Splitter have expiring contracts. The advantage of Splitter, who has missed the Hawks’ last 90 games, is that his full compensation counts toward the floor apparently without Philadelphia actually having to play all of his salary.
Plus, those picks could help the 76ers in a season where they can win something meaningful — like the Hawks have decided this season is for them.