Author: Kurt Helin

Anthony Davis, Casey Frank

Anthony Davis was throwing it down on New Zealand (VIDEO)


New Zealand had no answer for Anthony Davis. Neither did Turkey or Finland, but on Tuesday it was the All Blacks turn to look helpless.

Like on this first-quarter alley-oop from Kyrie Irving to Davis.

Through three games Davis is averaging a team best 19 points a game on 65.2 percent shooting. He has been the best player on Team USA, arguably the best player in the tournament. The USA has a long way to go (two more group games in Bilbao before heading to the knockout stage, which starts in Barcelona), but Davis is looking like this tournament could help him break out in the public consciousness — and be a springboard to a huge season for the Pelicans.

By the 2016 Olympics, Davis will be leading Team USA and get mentioned in the same breath with LeBron James and Kevin Durant (if they go to Rio).

USA sails past New Zealand for easy 98-71 win behind Anthony Davis, Kenneth Faried

Anthony Davis

Since a lot of big men stayed away from Team USA this summer — Kevin Love, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge among them — the American squad on paper looked perimeter oriented. It was going to be about the guards in transition and raining threes on opponents.

Through three games at the World Cup, it has been the USA bigs that have stole the show.

Tuesday it was Anthony Davis — 21 points on 13 shots, plus 9 rebounds — and the energy of Kenneth Faried with 15 points and 11 rebounds that anchored an easy Team USA win over New Zealand, 98-71. Team USA shot 51.5 percent for the game to New Zealand’s 40.3 percent in a game that was never in doubt once All Blacks finished their Haka pre-game dance.

The USA is now 3-0 in pool play with a game Wednesday against the Dominican Republic and Thursday against the Ukraine. Both of those also should be comfortable wins for Team USA, which will win the group handily. After that comes the single-elimination knockout stage next week.

On Sunday a veteran Turkey squad laid out a blueprint for how to slow the game down and beat the Americans, but New Zealand just doesn’t have the players to execute that plan. They are without Steven Adams of the Thunder, the one big man who might have been able to match some of the energy and athleticism of Team USA up front. The talent gap was stark in this one and New Zealand could not control the pace (and if you’re going to beat the USA you have to slow the game down).

Faried helps spark that pace for the Americans. Back during training camp Mike Krzyzewski described Faried as an “energy specialist” but one he got thrown into the starting lineup when Durant bolted. Faried has been exactly what the team needed — there are guys on that roster who can coast for stretches (I’m looking at you, James Harden). Faried is the antidote for that — his hustle and effort infects the starting lineup. He brings defense and energy.

That energy had Team USA up early (and by 22 by the half) as they were getting points inside and Stephen Curry was hitting some shots from the outside (he had 12 points on the game, as did fellow “Splash Brother” Klay Thompson). Harden chipped in 13. As teams have to start packing it in on the USA bigs the guards should start to get better looks — if Team USA starts to move the ball better.

Of interest was that Coach K started Derrick Rose over Kyrie Irving for the second half, letting him get some run with the main guys to see how that went. Rose wasn’t terribly impressive, going 1-of-6 shooting for just two points. After the game Krzyzewski said the plan is for Rose to play in both of the next two games.

If you want to pick apart the USA their half court offense is a bit stagnant. They run some high pick-and-roll but basically they have a lot of one-on-one play, something they can get away with against New Zealand but could be an issue if they see Lithuania in the knockout round, and certainly vs. Spain in the gold medal game. On the defensive end of the court the USA tends to look for the aggressive play and lose their guys on back-cuts in system offenses, leading to some easy buckets allowed. Better teams will exploit that.

It’s the kind of thing Krzyzewski needs to show them on film and start to get fixed. It just didn’t matter against New Zealand Tuesday (and will not the next two days of group play, either).

Jodie Meeks wants to bring some Kobe Bryant work ethic to Detroit

New York Knicks v Los Angeles Lakers

Jodie Meeks was brought in to knock down shots in Detroit — Stan Van Gundy likes the three ball and last season the Pistons shot just 32.1 percent from three as a team (only the Sixers were worse). Meeks took more than five threes a game last season for the Lakers and hit 40 percent of them.

Meeks also wants to bring some veteran leadership and work ethic to the Pistons — things he said he learned from a year playing with Kobe Bryant.

Meeks told his Kobe story speaking with Perry Farrell of the Detroit Free Press.

“Practice was at 11, we had to be there at 10. Well, I wanted to get there at 10,” Meeks said. “He was already there fully dressed and sweating. I got to the locker room at 9:30, got on the court at 10, and he had been there an hour and a half working on stuff.

“I was like, ‘Man, it is true.’ This guy is working like this and at the time he was 34 years old. He felt like he still had a lot to prove, and he was still trying to prove people wrong. I was like, ‘Man, great player….’

“No matter if he was sick or hurt or injured, he never made excuses. He just kept working hard. He got better, and you see where he’s at.”

Everyone who has played with Kobe has stories like that. Guys like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have those kinds of stories from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. They are legend around the league.

What Meeks said he wants to do is bring that kind of effort and that kind of work ethic to the Pistons and let their young stars — Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and others — see it and learn from it.

If Meeks can be that kind of leader on a young team, he will be bringing a lot more than threes to the party.

Ray Allen on making a decision about next season: “I’m not in any rush”

2014 NBA Finals - Game Four

Ray Allen has options.

LeBron James has tried to recruit him to Cleveland. Doc Rivers has tried to recruit him to the Clippers. The Spurs are interested.

But at age 39 Ray Allen may choose to sound like the “WarGames” computer — “the only winning move is not to play.”

What Allen is not going to do is rush this decision. If you need more proof beyond the fact he has resisted all those people trying to recruit him and hasn’t made a decision by Sept. 1, Allen said again recently he was going to take his time with this, speaking to Dom Amore of the Hartford Courant.

“I’m not in any rush [to make a decision],” Allen said during a break in the Citi Ray Allen Basketball ProCamp at East Granby High on Saturday morning. “I’ve played 18 years, and the way I look at my career, I’m content with everything that I’ve done. I just want to take this summer and see how it goes….

“To continue playing, really, the only argument is I can because I’m in great shape,” Allen said. “But just because you can doesn’t mean you have to. Many people over these last couple of weeks have lobbied for me to continue to play. … My argument for not playing is, I have done a significant amount in my career and I appreciate everything that has come my way and as I’ve gotten older, I’m 39, there are so many things in life I want to be able to do to affect change — like being around kids full time, which I enjoy.

“So at this point I just feel so good about where I am.”

If LeBron had stayed in Miami — where Allen and his family live — this would be a done decision and he’s be back with the Heat. But that’s not how it went down and the Heat, while they will be pretty good, are not contenders. Does Allen want to play in another (not as warm) city for the league minimum salary for one more season to chase another ring? Or are the two he has, plus 10 All-Star appearances and twice making the All-NBA team, enough?

Allen may be turning 39 and his game is slipping, but he remains one of the great shooters of all time and a guy who can come off the bench and space the floor with the corner three. A lot of teams could use him. He has options.

But he may choose “none of the above.”

FIBA World Cup Day 3 roundup: Pau Gasol drops 26 on Brazil as Spain looks dominant

Anderson Varejao, Pau Gasol

The FIBA World Cup is taking place in Spain right now, but it was Labor Day Monday in America and we know you were celebrating the gains organized labor has brought to our country… or drinking a lot of beer, either way you weren’t watching FIBA ball. So here is what you missed.

We said from the start this tournament was going to come down to Spain vs. the USA — and Spain flexed its muscles and looked dominant in beating Brazil 82-63 on Monday. Spain looked like a force from the opening tip with Pau Gasol scoring 12 (of his 26 for the game) in the first quarter and the Spaniards hanging a 30 spot on a good Brazil team in the first frame. The game was never really close and Bulls fans had to watch this game and just drool about what the 34-year-old Gasol is going to bring to Chicago this year. Gasol also had 9 rebounds and even blocked Nene right at the rim.

Make no mistake Spain is a legitimate threat to the USA (the two almost certainly will not meet until the gold medal game). The Spaniards looked better beating Brazil than Team USA did in its exhibition against that same team, with Spain having better ball movement and team play. Plus they have a raucous home crowd. Spain also has legitimate talent — they start Pau Gaol, Marc Gasol, Juan Carlos Navarro, Rudy Fernandez and Ricky Rubio, with Serge Ibaka, Jose Calderon and Sergio Rodriguez coming off the bench.

• Senegal pulled off an upset of Croatia 77-75 behind Gorgui Dieng (Timberwolves) who had 27 points on 8-of-14 shooting. Dieng has been a force in this tournament averaging 22 points a game on 54 percent shooting, plus 11.7 rebounds and a couple blocks a night. The Sixers Dario Saric looked good again with 15, as did the Nets Bojan Bogdanovic, but it wasn’t enough for Croatia.

• The Philippines are the best and most entertaining 0-3 team in the tournament. They came out with their young legs Monday and tried to run the old men of Argentina into the ground — and it worked for a while. The Philippines led early but eventually Argentina came back for an 85-81 victory.

• In other action France destroyed Egypt 94-55; Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 15 points to help lead Greece past Puerto Rico 90-79 (Greece has now qualified for the knockout round of 16); and Serbia beat Iran 83-70.

• Team USA had Monday off but play against New Zealand on Tuesday (11:30 ET on ESPN).