Author: Kurt Helin

Raul Togni Neto, Nicolas Batum

World Cup Day 1 roundup: Brazil with big win, Andray Blatche puts on a show


The FIBA World Cup tipped-off on Saturday in Spain with a dozen games. Since it’s Labor Day weekend and all and you have barbecues to attend and beers to drink, we put together a quick recap for you.

• The USA’s defense forced Finland into a 0-of-17 shooting performance in the second quarter, a quarter the USA won 29-2. From there the USA went on to eek out a 114-55 win. Klay Thompson had 18 points, Anthony Davis 17 and Derrick Rose looked impressive throwing up a dozen. Finland had a loud and large crowd on hand, which was nice.

• Brazil picked up a key win over France 65-63 in a battle of two potential medal teams (both in Group A this round). Brazil trailed in the second quarter of a sloppy game until point guard Marcelo Huertas poured in 11 of his 16 points on the night to fuel the Brazilian comeback and give them a two point lead at the half, a lead they were able to maintain in the second half. Boris Diaw led France with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, and he had a three-point shot at the final buzzer to try to win it but Anderson Varejao of Brazil got the block. This was a game littered with NBA players but Evan Fournier (Magic) barely played and Nene (Wizards) was 2-of-6 shooting with four turnovers in what was often a sloppy game.

• As you would expect Spain had little trouble with Iran, winning 90-60. The real news here was that Serge Ibaka did not play for Spain due to a hamstring injury. We will monitor this going forward, but remember Ibaka battled a calf injury in the NBA playoffs last year.

• Andray Blatche had a monster game for the Philippines — 28 points (despite a 1-of-9 shooting start when he was settling for jumpers) and 12 rebounds. Blatche, still an NBA free agent, was faking three pointers and driving past Croatian big men when they bit, getting into the lane and generally finding all sorts of room to operate and put on a show. It wasn’t enough. The Brooklyn Nets new forward Bojan Bogdanovic scored 26 points leading Croatia to a 81-78 overtime victory.

• Argentina had little trouble with Puerto Rico winning 98-75 behind 20 points and 9 rebounds from Luis Scola, plus 10 assists from Pablo Prigioni. J.J. Barea had 24 points to lead Puerto Rico.

• The Suns’ Goran Dragic scored 21 points and pulled down 7 rebounds to lead Slovenia to a 90-80 victory over Australia.

• Greece beat Senegal 87-64 in part due to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 11 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals. Minnesota’s Gorgui Dieng led Senegal with 21 points and 14 rebounds.

• In other action in the USA’s group Turkey came from behind to beat New Zealand 76-73, and the Ukraine (coached by Mike Fratello) beat the Dominican Republic 72-62.

• Other Word cup games on Saturday saw Angola beating Korea 80-69, Serbia toying with Egypt 85-64, and Lithuania beating Mexico 87-74.

Derrick Rose with explosive crossover, two handed jam on Finland (VIDEO)

Derrick Rose

Sure, Finland plays about as much defense as you see in my Monday night pick-up games, that was still an impressive move by Derrick Rose.

Rose looked like his vintage self against Finland in the USA’s World Cup opening win, finishing with 12 points. Rose was explosive and looked the best we have seen since the USA’s tune-up game in Chicago against Brazil.

The real question with Rose is how he feels the next day. (A question that will be asked again and again all season.) We’ll see how much he plays and how he looks against Turkey on Sunday, but on Saturday Rose looked good again.

Manu Ginobili gets statue of himself in Argentina

Detroit Pistons v San Antonio Spurs

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.