Tag: Australia

US forward Carmelo Anthony (L)  and US f

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


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.

Kyrie Irving might play for Australia in Olympics

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Here’s something I didn’t know about Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving — he has dual citizenship in the United States and Australia. He was born down under while his father was playing professional basketball there.

Which means Irving has a choice to make in the next few weeks — does he want to play for Australia in the Olympics this summer?

Say yes and it comes with this caveat: He can never play for Team USA in the future. The way the international basketball rules are set up, once you play for a national team at a major international competition and you are committed to that country for life. (It is the same in international soccer, hockey and other sports as well.) Irving did play with Team USA in an under-18 event but can change his mind on the senior circuit.

Irving is undecided on what to do, he told the Beacon-Journal (via SLAM).

“Still haven’t decided,” Irving said. “Really it will come down to whether or not I want to give up my whole summer.”

Irving is not on this year’s list of 20 finalists for Team USA. The question is could he be in four years? Could he surpass Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Eric Gordon and other guys in the back court by then and get an invite? The bird in the hand, or the two in the bush?

Irving has started to really find his footing in the NBA, averaging 17 points and 5 assists per game for the Cavaliers. He’s not an explosive athlete (ala Derrick Rose or John Wall) but he plays a smart game and reads the play well.

Australia has qualified for the games, as they always do dominating their region pretty easily. They will have Andrew Bogut and Patty Mills on the squad, plus some solid international players with experience.

Insurance will keep Bogut from playing in Australia after all

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Andrew Bogut wanted to play in Australia during the lockout. He even tweeted it was almost a reality. He could sharpen his game coming off an injury and bring attention to a hoops league in a nation where rugby, Australian Rules Football, soccer, cricket and other sports are thought of well before hoops. (Well, Australian Rules Football is pretty cool.)

But it’s not going to happen, and you can blame insurance — he couldn’t get it to cover his remaining NBA salary.

Marc Stein at ESPN has the story.

Agent David Bauman said Thursday that a deal to put Bogut on the court with the Sydney Kings is “off” because insuring the nearly $40 million remaining on the 7-footer’s contract with the Milwaukee is not feasible.

“He’s very disappointed because he was hoping to help the profile of the NBL and bring in new fans,” Bauman said after speaking to Bogut by phone. “But the risks for his outstanding money were too great.”

In Australia they say they are still looking for a way to figure out the insurance issues. The agent says its not going to happen — agents don’t like their players to risk money.

You know, if the owners and players would just end the lockout, this whole situation would be moot.

Insurance issues holding up Bogut from playing down under

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Andrew Bogut is finally feeling like his badly injured arm is fully healed, he is ready to return to the court.

Except the NBA is not returning to the court. So instead Bogut wants to play in his native Australia for a little while or until the lockout ends. However, now its insurance on the remaining three-years, $39 million of his NBA contract that is keeping him sidelined.

Talks have stalled with several Australian teams and FIBA is looking into the issue, according to ninemsn.com.

Considered the favourite to snap up Bogut’s signature, (Gold Coast) Blaze boss Paul Pamenter said talks with the Boomers centre were in a “holding pattern”.

“It is bigger than just Andrew globally,” Pamenter told AAP. “There are 60 or 70 guys on contracts valued up to $100 million now who are trying to get themselves around the world while this lockout drags on. It is a bit of an unknown at the moment. (But) we are quietly confident.”

Some teams have had sponsors step up to cover the cost of insuring NBA players while overseas, but for many teams, the insurance issue is a real challenge.

Still, I’d expect to see Bogut playing down under soon. Because sadly it doesn’t look like he’ll be playing in the NBA soon.

Australia wins Oceania Tournament, headed to Olympics

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We’ve been giving you regular updates on what is happening with the Olympic qualifying tournaments taking place in Europe and South America right now.

But we haven’t really discussed the Oceania qualifier that just wrapped up — because it is pretty much always won by Australia. And was again Friday, with the Aussies beating New Zealand 81-64 in a game that was close until the fourth quarter (New Zealand was actually ahead by a bucket after three quarters).

That means Australia is headed to London to be part of the 2012 Olympics. They were able to qualify without having Andrew Bogut suited up — he had a second elbow surgery this summer and could not play (but was an assistant coach). Next year in London he and Patty Mills should suit up, which makes the Aussies a threat on any given day.

New Zealand will be headed to next summer’s pre-Olympic qualifying tournament where they will face off against other teams that just missed out and try to win one of the final Olympics berths.

There are 12 spots in the Olympic tournament (there should be more, but that’s an issue for another day) and four teams have qualified. They are the United States (won FIBA World Championships last summer), Great Britain (host), Tunisia (won FIBA African Championships) and now Australia. Two more teams out of South America will be added to that list Saturday.