Tag: 2012 Olympics

(From L) US centre Anthony Davis, US gua

FIBA head says no to under-23 Olympics basketball


David Stern and the NBA owners are going to have a much tougher hill to climb to sell the idea of an under-23 Olympics tournament than they thought. They can’t just lock everyone out until they get their way this time.

The players hate the idea and spoke out unanimously against it. Fans hate it — and showed they liked the current format by tuning in with the biggest ratings for the gold medal game in more than a decade.

And FIBA Secretary General and IOC member Patrick Baumann shot down the under-23 idea in no uncertain terms in an interview on FIBA’s web site, something first noticed by Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com.

Baumann’s first reason is that if you think the USA has an unfair advantage sending its NBA players, that’s nothing compared to the under-23 gap.

From a global perspective, the progress of the talent in all other countries doesn’t go at the same speed or the same pace as the USA. They don’t all have a school system like the USA. So the ability for the rest of the world to produce a lot of talent is not the same as the USA. As a result of that, lowering the age to U23 at the Olympics could actually widen the divide between the USA and the rest of the world.

There is also a more general issue of what the Olympic Games represent. The NBA, the IOC and FIBA, we have all earned a lot – not just in financial terms – from professional athletes being at the Olympics since 1992. This is the case with regards to the way basketball has grown, from where we were then to where we are now.

So it would be premature to make changes in the quality of basketball at the Olympics, especially before having maximised the potential of the World Cup. So it’s too early to make any changes in the Olympic programme.

FIBA’s main man does talk about boosting the profile of the existing World Cup of Basketball and of petitioning to add 3-on-3 basketball for the next Olympics games. But he’s not touching the tournament age limit.

You can bet Stern and the owners are still going to try and push it, still try to pump up the World Cup by partnering with FIBA, by trying to offer the one thing they have the most of — money.

NBA owners see all the money the Olympics generate and they want a piece of it for using “their” players. They would never phrase it that way, but that is the reality of their actions on this. They see the money and they want a cut, and they think partnering with FIBA can get them that. (Well, not Mark Cuban, he wants the NBA to strike out on its own with an international tournament.)

They all miss on how the Olympics is a much bigger stage to promote their product than one they could create themselves in a World Cup — there were 40 current and former NBA players in the Olympic tournament and they were the cream of the crop, including 21 in the gold medal game. The World Cup of Basketball will never be the platform and draw the Olympics are based both on tradition and on the fact that the Olympics are more than just hoops.

And that really is the best part of the Olympic experience for basketball — it is part of something bigger than itself. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and Kevin Durant are hanging out with cyclists and rowers at the opening ceremonies, they are showing up to watch beach volleyball, they are representing our nation the right way.

Sometimes it’s about more than money. Or, at least it should be.

After coaching LeBron, Jim Boeheim is not sure Jordan is the best he’s seen

London Olympics Basketball Men

The year of redemption for LeBron James is reaching dizzying heights now. NBA MVP, NBA champion, NBA finals MVP, gold medal all in one year. His arc is reaching the highest of heights.

And the praise keeps pouring in for him. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim is stepping away from USA Basketball after serving as an assistant coach under Mike Krzyzewski for a decade. He has seen the evolution of LeBron from the guy Jerry Colangelo considered not inviting to Beijing to the unquestioned leader of the gold medal team in London.

Boeheim was on the Colin Cowherd show on ESPN Radio and his praise of LeBron went so far as to compare him to the guy currently on top of most “greatest ever to play the game” lists (via The Big Lead, who listens to Cowherd so you don’t have to).

“He’s a leader. He gets on the court, he tells people what to do … this guy can guard five [positions] … put him on anybody, he can guard him. I always felt Michael Jordan was the best player I’ve ever seen … I didn’t think it was close … and I’m not so sure anymore … this guy is 6-9, 260 pounds and he’s getting better … I know we’ve had great, great players through the years. He’s like Magic Johnson with Michael Jordan-type skills as well.”

LeBron has not near equalled Michael Jordan’s career accomplishments. Nobody sane suggests that he is. But he is starting to reach the full potential of his ridiculous talent and that might be compared with anyone.

The question was never LeBron’s talent. Physically on the court he has had the skills to be mentioned with Jordan and Magic since he set foot in the league. His game was always more Magic or Oscar Robertson than Jordan, but Jordan is the greatness benchmark for the next generations.

The question with LeBron has always been about the maturity and the competitive fire — he has never burned as hot as Jordan. Or Kobe. And in Cleveland LeBron still seemed to be about having fun and being around his guys more than winning. That’s at least how it looked outside his tight circle.

But he has evolved in Miami. Maybe it is he is now 27, no longer 21. Maybe it is Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, more serious minded guys. Maybe it is Pat Riley. Most likely it is a combination of all of it and more.

But for the past year LeBron has started to live up to his potential and the sky-high expectations on him. And those who are close to him to see what he has evolved into, even veteran guys like Boeheim, are taken aback by what he has become.

Note to Stern: Fans really liked, tuned in for Olympic hoops

US guard Kobe Bryant (C) celebrates with

David Stern and the NBA owners don’t care what you think about an under-23 Olympic basketball tournament, because to them it’s about another way to make money off the players and you. This is all about money for them not whether it is good for the sport.

If the ratings here on NBC are any indication, you like Olympic basketball.

The gold medal game between the USA and Spain — on a Sunday morning — had an 8.2 rating and drew 12.5 million viewers. That is the most that have watched a gold medal game since 2000 and doubles the ratings from Beijing.

The NBC Sports Network broadcast the other USA men’s hoops games and those averaged 2.6 million viewers, up 81 percent from the USA network when it showed the Beijing. The biggest ratings for a game this time around? Argentina. Because you can’t take your eyes off Manu Ginobili.

If David Stern and the owners get their way and a World Cup of Basketball supplants the Olympics as the main international hoops competition (and the Olympics become an under-23 tournament) there will still be good basketball and patriotism, but the ratings simply will not be as good. For all our frustrations with the Olympics, we love the pageantry and the spectacle. We love the tradition. We love to see our hoop heroes mingled with gymnasts and cyclists and track stars. We love to see basketball as part of something bigger, not just another made-for-television tournament.

By the way, the USA women’s gold medal game drew 10.2 million viewers, up 73 percent from Beijing four years before.

And the ratings from Rio — just one time zone ahead of the USA’s East Coast, should even be better.

Eleven guys who came out of London Olympics big winners

US gold medalists LeBron James (R) and C

The USA is the big winner in London — in our “winner take all” society they won the gold medal, they get the spoils. And no doubt they were the best team in the games.

But a number of players came out of London as winners in the reputation game. Eric Freeman nailed a great look at what the gold means to the members of Team USA over at Ball Don’t Lie, but I want to broaden the list — a number of players from around the globe leave London big winners.

Here are my 11 players who came out on top individually from London.

• LeBron James. You don’t have to like him, but you have to admit he has cemented his place as the most dominant player in the game today. For most people the fact he is NBA MVP, NBA champ and Olympic gold medalist at the same time helps move the needle on his perception and legacy. Him saying after the gold medal game that this was all about the USA just helps reinforce a perceived change.

Four years ago in Beijing, when things got tight against Spain in the fourth quarter, it was Kobe Bryant who took over. That was his team. This time, there was no mistake throughout the London tournament that this was LeBron James’ team — he was the guy that took over games, he was the guy setting players up, he was making big buckets (the three over Marc Gasol in the Gold Medal game was the last of many). Doug Collins had a good line about all this on the NBC broadcasts — LeBron’s fingerprints were all over these games. He had the first ever Olympic triple-double to prove it.

• Pau Gasol. Shortsighted Lakers fans (and some basketball fans in general) like to rip the guy as a soft Euro (forgetting how he stood up to Dwight Howard in the NBA finals, for one of many examples). That has always been shortsighted. Gasol is a finesse player who can use power in the right situation, but that is different than soft. He remains the most skilled scorer in the low post in the game today. Mike Brown hurt Gasol last year, trying to take advantage of his variety of skills (passing, mid-range shooting) and moved him out of the post most of the time. It was a mistake. Hopefully with a more fleet-footed Dwight Howard at the other big Brown can start to get Gasol the post touches he deserves.

• Chris Paul. Simply put, the best pure point guard, the best floor general in the game and the Olympics showed it. Deron Williams is good. Derrick Rose is explosive and good. But nobody controls the tempo and flow of a game like Chris Paul. Nobody. I’ve already written an ode to him, so I move on.

• Manu Ginobili. If LeBron James was the single best player in this tournament, Ginobili was second. He scored 19.4 points per game, shot 44 percent from three and more than that really controlled the flow of the offense for Argentina. He helped set up Luis Scola (18 points a game). Manu looked young in transition and deadly in the half court. At 35 the Spur has a few years left.

• Kevin Durant. In case there was still any lingering doubt, he is the best pure scorer walking the face of the earth. If you want points, he’s the guy who can get them with threes, off the drive, in transition, cutting, whatever you want. The LeBron/Durant two-man game the USA ran (LeBron with the ball handing off or not to Durant coming off his screen) was simply the USA’s best and most unstoppable play.

It feels even more and more like he will get his soon.

Andrei Kirilenko/Alexey Shved. Minnesota Timberwolves fans had to love these Olympics. Over the summer it seemed GM David Kahn overpaid for Kirilenko (well, he did), but in the Olympics he was the best player on the bronze medal winning Russian team, averaging 17.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. The question with AK-47 has always been consistency of effort, but he looked good in London. Shved and his shaggy hair were a hit in the games as he averaged 11.5 points and 5.9 assists per game. He looked like the perfect backup point guard to Ricky Rubio.

• Andre Iguodala. He played a key role with Team USA as a defensive stopper on the wing and a guy asked to score in transition and with space in the half court. In the middle of the Olympics he gets traded to Denver where he will be asked to do what he did for Team USA (just on a slightly expanded scale). Let me put it this way, I would move Iggy way up your fantasy boards.

Juan Carlos Navarro. He had one unhappy season in Memphis and was back to Spain. We NBA fans lose out because of it, that guy can flat out play.

• Anthony Davis. The question with the No. 1 overall draft pick of the Hornets is not does he have the talent but can he develop said talent. Starting out your NBA career by getting to hang out with and watch the work ethic of Kobe, LeBron, CP3 — really everyone on this team — gives him a huge head start on the learning curve. Plus, he gets a gold medal.

• Linas Kleiza. He can fall out of pubic consciousness up in Toronto, but consider this a reminder the Lithuanian forward can play — 13.8 points per game as the leader of Lithuanian team.

Chris Paul and subtle art of taking over a game

London Olympics Basketball Men

Chris Paul is athletic, but not Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook athletic where he can make a move that has your jaw drop like you’re in a Tex Avery cartoon.

Chris Paul can shoot and score, but he’s not unstoppably pure like Kevin Durant or Ray Allen.

Chris Paul did not put up a monster stat line in the USA’s gold medal win over Spain on Sunday — 11 points and two assists — but if you watched the game closely you saw why Chris Paul is the best pure point guard on the planet. You saw him take control of Team USA and the game.

He does it all the time, but he does it in a more subtle way than some of the game’s explosive superstars and it gets overlooked. It shouldn’t. Paul’s game is cerebral, he is the conductor of the orchestra, not the soloist (unless he has to be). The USA needed that against Spain. They needed focus and direction that he provided on the court.

It’s not that he didn’t make a couple big plays — he hit a key fourth quarter three and had a brilliant driving layup, both of helped the USA keep ahead from Spain, both were key shots.

But that’s just a fraction of what Paul did. In the first half Spain’s guards — particularly Juan Carlos-Navarro — tore the USA defense up. Starting from the first play of the second half Paul was up on Navarro and the other Spain guards taking them out of their rhythm, removing space and easy angles to make plays (Pau Gasol kept Spain in it after that).

On offense, the tempo and flow of the game changed and Paul was key to that — he set Team USA up, he got some easy looks and got them running. It was him helping the Americans stretch out at the top of the fourth quarter and not looking back. It wasn’t done with thunderous dunks or highlight reel stuff, it was just done with amazingly good basketball instincts.

Watch Paul do it during the regular season as well. The Clippers are his teams and he directs games like a conductor. In a town with Kobe Bryant and now Dwight Howard, Paul can make a legitimate argument as being the best player in Los Angeles.

You just won’t notice it as simply.