Author: Kurt Helin

Detroit Pistons v San Antonio Spurs

Manu Ginobili gets statue of himself in Argentina


Manu Ginobili is likely done playing for Argentina. He’s not in Spain to play in the World Cup this year, his recovery from a stress fracture in his leg had not come along far enough (Ginobili admitted there is still pain) and so the Spurs shut him down.

But he is still a legend in Argentina, the best basketball player that country has ever produced. So they gave him a statue, something he tweeted out.

The statue is in Buenos Aires, in case you were looking to travel to get your picture with it. Although, from this photo, not sure about that likeness. Maybe it’s better in person.

The San Antonio Express News doesn’t really have any other details, but glad they noticed this.

USA cruises past Finland in World Cup opener, 114-55

Anthony Davis, Teemu Rannikko

Well, the crowd from Finland was impressive — roughly 8,000 Finnish fans cheering on their team.

But it gets really quiet when 8,000 people go silent.

That happened in the second quarter when Finland shot 0-of-17 from the floor and the USA won the quarter 29-2 on their way to the expected thrashing of Finland in both team’s World Cup openers, 114-55. The USA shot 58.9 percent for the game, compared to 27.7 percent for Finland, which could not deal with the American’s defensive pressure.

Next up for the USA is Turkey on Sunday (ESPN 3:30 pm). That’s a rematch of the 2010 World Championship finals, but Turkey is a shell of that former team.

Saturday Klay Thompson scored 18 points and Anthony Davis had 17 to lead the USA. Every USA player got double-digit minutes and scored. DeMarcus Cousins came off the bench to grab 10 rebounds.

Among the bright spots for the USA was Derrick Rose looked the best he has since the Chicago exhibition game, scoring 12 points and having a couple vintage Rose drives. Rudy Gay also added 10 points.

FIBA is the world’s 39th ranked team and the lowest ranked team ever to get invited to the World Cup via a FIBA “wild card” invite. It showed on the court as the team started 0-of-13 from three and were down 31-16 after the first quarter — and that was Finland’s best quarter.

Finland is here because their fans travel well (good gate revenue for FIBA) and because Finnish company Rovio— you know them as the maker of the Angry Birds game, — offered FIBA free advertising. FIBA likes its money.

The fans seemed to enjoy themselves… for a quarter, anyway.

For the USA this was a nice start, but things get a little more serious on Sunday, against Omer Asik and the rest of the Turkish team. That still should be a comfortable USA win, but not quite Finland comfortable.

John Calipari on Anthony Davis: “In five years, he could be the best player in the NBA”


It’s been a fun little debate this off-season: When will Anthony Davis become the third best player in the NBA?

I have said before it will happen in the next couple years, but when discussing it on Sirius XM NBA radio former NBA coach and GM Mike Dunleavy said it could happen by the end of this season. He’s that high on Davis.

Kentucky coach John Calipari took that discussion to another level speaking to the USA Today:

When will Davis become the best player overall in the NBA? Calipari said sooner than you mint think.

“Right now, you look at (Davis) and say, ‘Man, in five years, he could be the best player in the NBA,’ ” Calipari said. “And this USA Basketball stuff pushes that date sooner. Again, here’s what it does for him: how to work, new things to add to his game, and confidence like, ‘These are the best in the world, so I’m all right.'”

I know some of you will say: In five years LeBron James will be just 34 and we may only be starting to see some decline in his game.

Or in five years Kevin Durant will be 29 and in his prime — and he’s already the best pure scorer on the planet.

Both are true, as is the fact Calipari is a hype man for his former players.

That doesn’t make him wrong. In five years Davis could (and I think will) be playing on that level, he is that special a player. We’ll see how he develops, but he is about to be the star of this Team USA squad over more experienced guys like James Harden and Stephen Curry. Davis is improving by leaps each season right now.

While NBA owners like to focus on potential injuries and wear-and-tear on their players from this tournament (only because the owners don’t get any money from it, if they did they’d be all for it), the fact is a lot of guys have had career years after coming out of this environment. It’s not the games so much as the high level practices that push guys to improve. The best example was Derrick Rose’s MVP season coming after he was part of Team USA’s gold in this very tournament four years ago.

Davis is going to make a leap again this year, in part because of how he’s been pushed and the confidence he’s gaining from this summer. He is going to propel New Orleans to a new level (maybe the playoffs, although in the West that remains a tall order).

In five years… watch out.

DeMarcus Cousins: “I am a role model, absolutely”

DeMarcus Cousin

His statement will make twitter shake its collective head, because frankly that’s what twitter likes to do. Certainly nobody is going to confuse the demeanor of DeMarcus Cousins and Tim Duncan anytime soon.

That doesn’t mean Cousins isn’t inspirational. Cousins attitude and refusal to accept feeling wronged, to push through obstacles is why he got from a poor upbringing in Mobile, Alabama, all the way to Team USA (which tips off its World Cup bid Saturday).

Cousins told USA Basketball’s official site that drive from where he was to where he is now makes him a role model.

“I am a role model, absolutely. There are different types of people out there, and I come from a different type of place. So, I absolutely think I am a role model.

“I come from a place where there are not a lot of opportunities,” Cousins explained. “People there, they don’t ever really dream big because they don’t think it ever really exists. Like the things you see on TV, they think it’s just a false world. And them seeing me make it, they believe it is possible. Those people grew up with me; they have seen the struggles; they have seen me fight and work my way to where I am now, so I absolutely believe I am a role model.”

Role models are not one size fits all.

What will inspire you in your situation would seem silly or unrealistic to others. Situations are different. For some, Cousins’ rise and the attitude he needed to get there can be inspirational.

Even Cousins’ most ardent critics have to admit he has matured as he aged and experienced things (shocking how that happens).

If he can keep his feelings for the FIBA referees in check, and if he gets out and runs the court, he could play a bigger than expected role for Team USA. The fact is that against some of the Americans biggest hurdles — Lithuania, Spain — Team USA is going to need Cousins. And that fire he brings.

World Cup Preview: USA vs. Finland, what to expect


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.