Scouting reports make Finland sound like a team that’s fun to watch play — it’s all about pressure on defense then shooting from the outside (usually a catch-and-shoot). It’s a good system.
Until you run into someone that does it better.
The USA does it better.
That is Finland’s problem in its World Cup opener Saturday (3:30 ET, ESPN). The USA does what Finland wants to do, but better. With better athletes. And more of them.
Finland — led by Utah’s Erik Murphy, plus Petteri Koponen (Dallas has his draft rights) — is the 39th ranked team in the World. Compare that to what the USA did in its tune-up games: Beat world No. 10 Brazil by 17 points, then world No. 26 Dominican Republic by 43 points, then world No. 17 Puerto Rico by 26, finally world No. 13 Slovenia by 30.
On paper all of those teams are better than Finland. Many much better.
Which is to say that for the USA this should be like the tune-up games, ones where they can overwhelm their opponent. The USA can pressure on defense, disrupt Finland’s offense, run on them and generally attack and be aggressive without fear. Look for Anthony Davis to have a massive game, along with wing players like James Harden and Stephen Curry. Look for all 12 USA players to get quality run.
Finland got into the tournament as a wild card selected by FIBA (along with Greece, Brazil and Turkey). Finland was taken instead of China, Russia (2012 Olympic bronze medalists) and Germany, among others. Why? Mostly because they travel well and had the backing of Rovio (the makers of Angry Birds) — basically, they were going to make FIBA money at the gate selling tickets. It was about the dollars, not the basketball quality. Just so you know FIBA has some FIFA in them.
Good for the Finland players, they got in the door and want to make the most of this. I hope they savor the experience.
But the USA should win this one going away.
It’s not really fair if you ask Nemanja Bjelica to cover Stephen Curry in space, but it does make for a good highlight.
On a nice slow Saturday afternoon around the NBA, let’s take a look at the top 10 handles moves of the season so far, courtesy NBA.com. Of course, there is some wickedness from James Harden, Derrick Rose, and Chris Paul, too. But I’m good with Jordan Clarkson in the top spot.
I want the Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker combo to work better than it does. The Buck get outscored by 2.3 points per 100 possessions when those two are on the court together, with neither end of the court working terribly well.
And yet, there are flashes — like the play above — where you think this could start to work. It just may need more time (and getting Khris Middleton back in the mix would help).
Antetokounmpo is having a phenomenal season, and is making plays.
It’s not hard to find out how Draymond Green felt after picking up a flagrant foul Thursday night when his leg flew up after a foul and caught James Harden in the face. Just go to his Twitter feed.
Saturday at Warriors’ practice, Green expanded on the subject, here’s the video via Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News.
If you prefer to read are Green’s comments transcribed:
“I just laugh at it. It’s funny how you can tell me how I get hit and how my body is supposed to react. I didn’t know the league office was that smart when it came to body movements. I’m not sure if they took kinesiology for their positions to tell you how your body is going to react when you get hit in a certain position. Or you go up and you have guys who jump to the ceiling. A lot of these guys that make the rules can’t touch the rim, yet they tell you how you’re way up there in the air which way you’re body (is supposed to go). I don’t understand that. That’s like me going in there and saying, ‘Hey, you did something on your paperwork wrong.’ I don’t know what your paperwork looks like. But it is what it is. They made the rule. Make your rule. I don’t care. But if you’re going to say it’s an unnatural thing, an unnatural act, no offense to James Harden, but I’ve never seen nobody up until James started doing it that shoots a layup like this under your arm (sweeps arms in a demonstration). That’s really not a natural act either. That’s not a natural basketball play either. But, hey, if you’re going to make a rule, make a rule. But if you’re going to take unnatural acts out the game, then let’s lock in on all these unnatural acts and take them out the game. I don’t know. Let them keep telling people how their body react I guess. They need to go take a few more kinesiology classes though. Maybe they can take a taping class or functional movement classes. Let me know how the body works because clearly mine don’t work the right way.”
First, Green should know that the ultimate hammer on NBA fines is Kiki Vandeweghe — former NBA player, two-time All-Star, who also coached in the league. You want a guy with a players’ perspective making the call? You already have it. And Vandeweghe played in a far more physical era than this one.
Second, the flagrant was not issued because of intent but because of the action — if you kick a guy in the face, it’s a flagrant foul. There’s no gray area here, and officials shouldn’t have to guess a player’s intent. When Green went up he was fouled by Harden, and to maintain his balance Green flailed his legs out, something he has done plenty and other players going back decades have done too. That doesn’t mean it’s not reckless. That doesn’t mean a player is still not responsible for his body. Ask soccer officials about this same issue — get your leg above the waist with other players around and it can be called a “dangerous play.” In the NBA, if your leg flies up and hits a guy in the face, it’s a flagrant foul. Whether or not you meant to do it.
Green knows the league is cracking down on this. He knows he’s a target. It’s on him to change. One would think the Finals would have taught him that lesson.
Steve Kerr missed the first half of last season with debilitating back pain, and in his quest to find pain relief he admitted he tried marijuana (which was legal for medicinal use in the state at the time). It didn’t work well for him, he added.
But Kerr also talked about how professional sports leagues, where the players are dealing with a lot of pain management (particularly the NFL and NHL), need to start viewing marijuana differently than they did a generation ago.
Draymond Green has his coach’s back, via Chris Haynes of ESPN. Although, not with the best pro-pot argument I’ve ever heard.
We’re just going to let this go because his heart is in the right place. It’s kind of like the scene in Animal House: “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!” “Germans?” “Forget it, he’s rolling.”
Green was also rolling when he started going in on the league’s crackdown on unnatural acts.
Draymond, so you know, here’s the link to Kiki Vandeweghe’s basketball-reference.com page. He’s not just the guy who hands out fines.