Tag: 2012 Olympic basketball

Nike Athletes Wear Their New Uniforms and Footwear For The London 2012 Olympic Games

Rest of world not really thrilled with under-23 Olympics idea


After the Olympics end the discussion of whether future games should follow the soccer model and be an under-23 event will grow louder.

But a lot has to happen to pull it off. FIBA has to buy in. The elite players have to by in (they have the ultimate power because if the elite players stay away from the World Cup it will die fast).

And the rest of the world has to buy in — you think the USA should send an under-23 team while Spain still gets to send the Gasol brothers? No. It’s all or nothing and the NBA owners want to change the rules for the rest of the world.

And the rest of the world may not be so thrilled with the idea. Certainly not the guys from Russia and Lithuania, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo Sports.

“I would hope that the countries would be in an uproar about this,” Russia coach David Blatt told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday “Who is one country to determine for everyone how international basketball should be played, and particularly how the Olympic Games should be managed? It’s not supposed to be like that. If it’s a global game, it’s a global game.”

“We went to the qualification in Venezuela on the first of June, and some of our players came straight after they finished (professional) seasons,” (Lithuania’s coach Kestutis) Kemzura said. “Of course (the Olympics) matters. We were fighting for this place. I don’t understand this idea of sending younger players, not sending our best to the Olympics. I do not understand it.

“If we leave everything on money, and money runs the show, where’s the sport? Where’s national team idea?”

The idea of changing the Olympic basketball tournament to an under-23 event is an NBA and American driven discussion. And like most American-driven pushes for change, it’s about money.

NBA owners — with David Stern as the front man — love the idea of changing the Olympics because they want to make more money by having a piece of the largest international tournament. Their goal is to partner with FIBA on a growing World Cup or start a new event. The owners see the Olympics as a cash cow they don’t get a taste of.

That’s not how the owners will sell it, they will say this about injuries and health concerns of the players they care so much about. However, the advanced stats and studies show the risk injury does not go up and actually guys tend to play better coming off these kinds of events. Don’t let anyone tell you differently — this is all about money. It’s always about money for the owners.

All of which is to say this is a really hard sell. Other countries will be hesitant (the NBA owners will have to share the wealth from their new event, and they don’t share money well). Star players — who see the Olympics as a proven way to grow their global brands (and you can throw in patriotism if you want) — will be hesitant. Shoe companies will be hesitant (back to the brand thing). Plus, it just feels wrong to say the best players in the world (LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant) can’t come to the Olympics.

But opposition has never stopped the NBA owners before. They will continue to make this push. Stern is just starting to learn what he is up against.

USA shouldn’t have much trouble with Australia to open medal round

Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook,  Chris Paul

The medal round. This is what we’ve been waiting for. When things get serious. Win and advance, lose and you go home. Three wins and you get a gold. The pressure is on now.

Except, for the USA the first game of the medal round should be their easiest game in a week.

The USA, undefeated winners of Group A, face Australia, the fourth place team in Group B. Let me explain the talent difference between these two sides this way: Not only would none of the Australian players make Team USA, none of them even would have been invited to the USA Select Team of young players who train with Team USA.

Australia is led by Patty Mills, who is tied with Pau Gasol as the leading scorer in the Olympics at 20.6 per game. You know him as former St. Mary’s star who played in China during the lockout then returned to join the Spurs last season. But Mills barely got off the bench in San Antonio when it mattered. And he’s the only name on the Australian team you would know.

But sometimes you can overcome wide talent disparity of the matchups favor you… nope, that’s not happening.

One of the reasons Mills doesn’t get off the bench in the NBA much is he can be pressured into turnovers and bad decisions (and his instinct is to shoot not pass anyway). The USA has taken a “cut the head off the snake” defensive approach to these games — pressure and deny the ball to the opponent’s best player. Take him out of the game.

Mills can expect Chris Paul and Deron Williams to hound him all night long. Then Russell Westbrook will take over the task. And if they get bored Andre Iguodala or Kobe Bryant will jump in. Mills is in for a long night, and that’s not good for his teammates.

On the other end of the court, expect Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony to put up points. Expect LeBron James to be setting guys up. Expect some big dunks. Expect Anthony Davis to be able to enter the game early if he remembers to put on his jersey. Expect the USA to pretty much run away and hide in this one. If they don’t, it’s on them.

Come Friday the USA will have a tougher game, against Brazil or Argentina. This is the last one of the London Olympics where the USA should have an easy time of it. They need to enjoy it — and not pick up any bad habits along the way. Because this is still the medal round.

Pau Gasol on verge of tying legendary Olympics scoring record

Pau Gasol

When Brazilian basketball legend turned broadcaster Oscar Schmidt showed up for a Team USA practice, students of the game like Carmelo Anthony went up to him and asked if they could take a picture with him. Schmidt is an international legend.

And he was the leading scorer in the Olympics in 1988, 1992 (more points per game than Charles Barkley or any Dream Teamer) and 1996.

Pau Gasol may beat equal that mark, (something noted by the ESPN stats department).

Gasol is fluid and skilled in the post, a lethal scorer. (Note to Mike Brown, may want to get him some touches there next season. Just an idea.) Plus Gasol can step out and knock down the midrange. Gasol has been the anchor of the Spanish offense for more than a decade.

Gasol was the leading scorer of the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the 2008 games in Beijing. Do it one more time and he ties Schmidt.

Gasol is tied as the London Olympics’ leading scorer with Patty Mills of Australia at 20.6 points per game. Right behind them are Argentinians Luis Scola (20.2) and Manu Ginobili (20, and arguably the guy playing the best overall in games). Kevin Durant leads the USA at 18.6 per contest.

Mills has one more game, against the USA and its defense aimed at “cutting off the head” — take out the best scorer of the other team, make him give up the rock. Mills is going to get hounded Wednesday. If Kobe wants to do his Laker teammate a solid, he could shut down Mills.

The question is what happens to Gasol’s scoring average against the better teams of the medal round? Be careful asking Lakers fans about them, some of them are oddly biased against Gasol. Because what’s he ever done for them?

Carmelo got punched in the, um, groin by Argentina. But we’ve seen worse.

Anthony of the U.S. grimaces on the court after being fouled during match against Argentina at their men's preliminary round Group A basketball match at the Basketball Arena during the London 2012 Olympic Games

Things got a little testy… wait, poor choice of words.

Things got a little chippy between the USA and Argentina at the end of the third quarter as the USA was running away with Monday’s Olympic pool play contest. (Yes, that’s better phrasing.) Carmelo Anthony was going up with a three as the quarter ended and Argentina’s Facundo Campazzo punched him in a place a man least wants to be punched. You can watch the video by following this link.

Carmelo Anthony was none to pleased when talking about it Tuesday before practice.

“It was definitely a cheap shot. Something like that, I don’t play like that, I don’t agree with that,” Anthony said. “If you’re going to foul somebody … foul them hard, but you don’t take a shot like that. So I don’t agree with that, but at this point there’s really nothing that nobody can do about it.”

It was a cheap shot. It led to Tyson Chandler and other team USA guys chirping at the Argentinians, with Luis Scola ready to give it right back. If you ask me, that’s ejection worthy.

There are some Americans out there who seem outraged by this play.

Those people must not watch NBA games, because we see that kind stuff all the time, it’s just usually more subtle.

Do I need to bring up when Metta World Peace did not live up to his name and gave James Harden a concussion? I’m talking about what Reggie Evans did to Chris Kaman (grabbing where ‘Melo got punched), I’m talking the kind of thing Chris Paul and Kevin Garnett will try to pull off nightly. Kobe Bryant went up in these Olympics and elbowed Lithuania’s Jonas Valanciunas in the throat.

None of this is new, Steve Aschburner of NBA.com reminds us — Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, Bruce Bowen and many other great players were happy to take little cheap shots. If you think it is bad now, talk to guys from the 1960s. But this is America, whatever helps you win.

And while you’re at it you can ask Duke’s opponents if Mike Krzyzewski’s teams are saintly and clean.

This kind of shot is part of basketball at the highest level (do it in a high school game and you should be tossed). Cheap, yes, but far from uncommon. Campazzo wasn’t exactly subtle and if a retaliatory elbow found him during a potential semi-final rematch it wouldn’t be a shock. But spare me any outrage. That was not an out of the blue NBA play.

USA’s path to gold could feature rematch from 1972. Or 2008.

US forward Carmelo Anthony (L)  and US f

We have reached the medal round and if you look at the way the USA played the last two quarters against Argentina — pressure defense where they did not gamble, then LeBron James and Kevin Durant scoring — nobody can stop them. We’re just going to pretend the first two quarters didn’t happen.

So what does the USA’s path to a gold medal look like? It starts out smooth but can get bumpy. Probably not bumpy enough to stop them, but bumpy.

First: Australia. If the USA we saw in the second half against Argentina shows up with its smothering defense, this will be a rout. Australia is led by Patty Mills, the feisty former St. Mary’s point guard who played in China during the lockout then hooked up with the Spurs after that and he played very well for them (PER of 21.5). He’s averaging 20.2 points per game these Olympics. It’s a good story. But if you think the Spurs second string point guard is going to lead a team that beats this Team USA you probably thought “In Time” was a good movie.

Second Round: Brazil or Argentina. The USA has already beaten the Argentines twice — by 6 in a tune-up game and then by 29 on Monday when their overwhelmed Argentina in the second half. When Argentina is able to grind the game down they are a threat to the USA, and Manu Ginobili may be the best single player so far in these Olympics, but there is no reason to doubt that the runs that the USA made in both meetings so far would not happen again. The USA playing its best is just too much.

The USA also easily dispatched Brazil in an Olympic tune-up, but on paper they look like a team that could give the USA trouble. First, they have size up front with Nene, Tiago Splitter and Anderson Varejao — the USA would struggle to match that. Especially since Tyson Chandler is a foul sponge for the USA, just soaking them up then having to sit. Brazil also has a savvy veteran point guard in Marcelinho Huertas and Leandro Barbosa’s three-point explosion lifted them over Spain. But again this is a team that could not keep up with the runs Team USA makes and doesn’t have the firepower to come back after the inevitable spurts by the Americans. If the USA lost to Brazil it would be because of how they came out, now how Brazil played.

Gold Medal Game: Russia or Spain. First off, I applogize to France and Lithuania but they are not making it this far. France maybe could swing a bronze.

The 2008 silver medalists Spain could, they put themselves on this half of the bracket by losing to Brazil on Monday. We’ve covered Spain before because they should be the second best team in London — they have Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol up front, they have good point guards in Jose Calderon and Juan Carlos Navarro, they have shooters like Rudy Fernandez. They should be a team that could push the USA. But they haven’t played like it at all. They were 3-2 in group play (although both losses were close) and the USA handled them easily in a tune-up in Barcelona. Spain can be a side that should be able to threaten Team USA in a one-game playoff, but they need to play a little better at both ends to really do that.

Russia would be an interesting matchup, a rematch of the controversial 1972 Olympics finals on the 40th anniversary of that game. First, the Russians are getting great play from two future Timberwolves: Andrei Kirilenko has averaged 18.2 points per game and played fantastic pressure defense on opposing bigs; Alexey Shved has averaged 12 points and 5.4 assists per game while really controlling the tempo and flow. Two other interesting notes from the ESPN Stats Department — Russia is holding opposing teams to 27 percent shooting from three and has been the best transition defense team in the games. Those are the two areas Team USA uses to get easy buckets.

Russia may be the Americans new biggest threat — defend the three, take away easy transition buckets, have Kirilenko control the paint and Shved controlling the tempo. Like Spain, if this were a seven game series there would be no doubt the USA would win. But it’s not. It’s the NCAA tournament — one and done. Lose and go home. And for one day Russia could put it all together and threaten the USA.

At least until LeBron James and Kevin Durant took over.