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.
An astounding 86% of general managers said one year ago Anthony Davis was their preferred choice to build a franchise around.
An underwhelming season by the Pelicans put Davis in a strange light, and he ended the year sidelined due to injury.
Asked the same question this year, general managers gave Karl-Anthony Towns took a plurality of votes. Davis also plunged behind Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
Well, Davis sent a message to those who no longer view him as an elite franchise cornerstone. His opening-night performance:
- 50 points
- 16 rebounds
- 5 assists
- 7 steals
- 3 blocks
The last player to score 50 in a season opener was Michael Jordan in 1989. No player since at least 1983-84 has matched Davis’ stat line across the five major categories in any game.
Yes, New Orleans lost – 107-102 to the Nuggets. But Davis’ teammates shot 36% from the field and 18% on 3-pointers.
Davis produced an all-time great individual performance. That the rest of the Pelicans couldn’t keep up says only so much.
He just knows how to make a splash in season openers.
Sevyn Streeter said the 76ers prevented her from singing the national anthem at tonight’s game because she was wearing a “WE MATTER” jersey:
“The Philadelphia 76ers organization encourages meaningful actions to drive social change. We use our games to bring people together, to build trust and to strengthen our communities. As we move from symbolic gestures to action, we will continue to leverage our platform to positively impact our community.”
This is a continuation of Carmelo Anthony‘s argument: The emphasis should be on action in communities and there’s no longer a place for gestures like Colin Kaepernick kneeling.
But this needn’t be an either/or discussion. Community-based action is obviously important (though don’t assign responsibility to NBA players to fix racism). Recognizing the width and depth of the problem is necessary – which is why symbols matter, too.
Take Street’s shirt at face value. “We matter.” “Black lives matter.” What’s so offensive about that? There is no implicit “more” attached.
Yet, the 76ers found it antithetical to their brand.
This is why the widespread “unity” message preached by arm-locking NBA players left so much to be desired.
To the 76ers, unity meant silencing Streeter.
Is that what players were demonstrating on behalf of during the preseason? I’m sure that arena was much more united with a 76ers dancer singing the anthem than it would have been with Streeter spotlighted. But sometimes divisiveness is necessary to advance a cause.
If the 76ers don’t want Streeter using their platform to say “WE MATTER,” that’s their right. Not everyone has to support that choice, though.
No NBA players followed Colin Kaepernick’s lead by kneeling during the national anthem in the preseason.
But that courageous form of protest still found its way onto NBA courts.
A national-anthem singer knelt before a Kings game, and other did at a Heat game.
Another singer wanted to take a bold stance for the 76ers’ regular-season opener against the Thunder tonight by wearing a “WE MATTER” jersey, but she said the team stopped her.
A 76ers dancer performed the anthem instead:
The 76ers deserve some latitude to choose how someone uses their platform. But what about claiming black lives matter is antithetical to the 76ers’ brand?
The team did not immediately respond to request for comment. I will update if it does.
The Russell Westbrook era didn’t get off to the fastest start for the Thunder, who fell behind the 76ers early.
This Philadelphia fan got way ahead of himself (and any reasonable standard of decency).
Via Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report:
Oklahoma City responded with a 5-0 run, Westbrook scoring three points himself and assisting another basket.