Tag: FIBA World Championship

Luis Scola needs a nap


scola.jpgIt was inevitable. We had too many “No, I feel great” comments about playing in FIBA this summer. We needed the inevitable comment from someone who just admits they’re exhausted. Playing a full season, then playing in training camp for FIBA, then the travel, then the play in FIBA, then training camp for the league? That’s just a lot to deal with.

And Luis Scola is struggling dealing with it.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Scola is feeling tired as training camp starts, a repercussion of the summer international play that he says usually doesn’t bother him till midseason.

“Usually what happens is in the beginning of the season I feel good,” Scola said. “In the middle of the season, I get a bad time, and then I pick it back up. Usually at this part of the year I’m OK.

Scola does say he’ll be fine, just has to get his second wind. But the Rockets can’t really afford a slow start after giving Scola a fat new contract this summer. He’s a pivotal part of their team plan. He’ll be fine, eventually, but don’t be surprised if he takes it easy the first few weeks. Even admitting it publicly is an indication of how significant his exhaustion is. FIBA strikes again!

Durant's Gold Medal performance less magic, more an omen


If you were surprised, you need to work on your predictive logic. There was nothing surprising about Kevin Durant’s 28 point barrage to keep the good ship Team USA afloat in their FIBA Championship victory over Turkey. Nor was there anything shocking about his stunning 38 point dismantling of Lithuania in the semifinals. This is who he is. If you’ve been paying attention, this should make you shake your head in appreciation of just how incredible this kid, this 21-year-old kid, is.

The moral ascertations have already started rolling in about Durant, about how he’s the anti-LeBron, the new moral compass, and how he’ll be the best player in the NBA within a handful of years. All of these are not only entirely premature, but unfathomably lacking in perspective. Instead, let’s simply examine what Durant is revealing as his identity.

Durant’s three point attack was his particular weapon of choice today, hitting 7 of 13 from the perimeter. For all the struggles Team USA had this year in the halfcourt set, they did a remarkable job in finding ways to create space for Durant on the wing, and in the corner. From there, it was a matter of Turkey’s defense sneaking in to try and cover Team USA’s athleticism on the drive, and somehow not maintaining closing space on the best player on Team USA. The guy who had torched them from start to finish.

Durant was both opportunistic and patient. When presented with an opportunity to attack, he was aggressive. When they offered him perimeter shots, he rode that hot hand all the way to 28. He added five rebounds, two coming when the team needed to buckle down, and his defense was intent and focused.

While most of America was focused on opening weekend of the NFL, Durant put on a show in keeping Team USA afloat through three quarters of terrible shooting. It was only when Turkey ran out of steam, partially seemingly due to their frustration of being unable to make a significant dent in the American lead thanks to Durant tossing daggers like a circus performer, that the rest of Team USA woke up and buried the Turkish team once and for all.

The question we have to take from his FIBA performance is “What does this mean for his season?” Durant was already the scoring leader. His defense improved, probably more than it would have in just summer workouts alone, but still in an expected manner. His passing wasn’t more on display, nor his high post work, both limited by FIBA’s style.

But there was one thing that Durant probably made a stride in.

There were times last season, both in the regular season and their series with the Lakers, when for whatever reason, Durant wasn’t forceful in taking over in big minutes. He was brilliant, no doubt, but largely within the flow of the game. And that’s better than hogging shots and disrupting your team’s chances. But there’s something to be said for that leadership, and the leadership that comes only from riding the emotions of a team and being the focal point. Durant exhibited that leadership on all fronts in FIBA play, and that could spell huge things for the Thunder this year.

He’s already proved he can score however, whenever, over whoever. Now he may have learned how to overcome the very adversity that pushed him out of the playoffs. If his tangibles keep improving, and his intangibles make that leap?

Heaven help us all. He could have more gold sooner than we think.

USA's big problem today? The deer they should fear.

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As Kurt discussed in our preview last night, Team USA has a number of concerns against Turkey in the FIBA World Championship game today. The crowd will be Roman Coliseum-like. Hedo Turkoglu has been playing like his 2007 version instead of last year’s version. But the biggest concern for Team USA needs to be shutting down versatile forward and Milwaukee Buck, Ersan Ilyasova.

Ilyasova is averaging 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in this tournament, and his length and range make him an extremely difficult player to defend. Whoever Coach K chooses to sick on him, they’re going to have to be able to defend at the rim on cuts (which Turkey runs a lot for him), using their size to not allow easy buckets, and be able to extend out to the arc to guard against his range. It’s that combination that made him one of the better players on the Bucks last year.

On defense, Ilyasova has the same breadth of coverage. He can muscle down low, especially against a Team USA without much brute size, and can cover the wings on jumpers and threes. He presents a special set of problems for USA.

Andre Igoudala and Lamar Odom might end up splitting time against him, with Igoudala’s range and athleticism able to disrupt his play, and Odom’s size capable of combatting him in the paint. Odom is ideal in this regard because Ilyasova is essentially playing the same position Odom usually does, midway between the arc and the rim.

Ilyasova fouled out of the semifinal against Serbia. If USA can draw fouls on him with their muscle, that would go a long way towards getting him out of his rhythm.  

Here's a shocker: FIBA officials are reviewing yesterday's brawl

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Chairs were thrown. Screams were screamed. Sofoklis Schortsanitis probably wrecked a man. Nenad Krstic did some back-pedaling and threw a chair. If you somehow missed the brawl that took place during yesterday’s Greece-Serbia friendly, you’re probably having trouble with this whole internet thing. Just click here, and all of your wildest basketbrawling dreams will be fulfilled.

Unsurprisingly, FIBA announced today that they’re currently reviewing video of the fracas to assess blame and punishment. Here’s a snippet from the official statement:

FIBA, as the sport’s world governing body, is now urgently
reviewing last night’s game and the circumstances leading to the
violence.FIBA will not be commenting on the actions of any individual
player ahead of that review being completed. However, FIBA wishes to
make it clear that it will not hesitate from taking the strongest
possible action against any individual found to have brought the sport
of basketball into disrepute.

That’s bad news for Sofo, Krstic, Antonis Fotsis, and any participant who ranked highly in Tom Ziller’s fantastic Greece-Serbia Brawl Power Rankings. The more powerful the display, the more likely that player is to incur FIBA’s wrath.

The altercation was rather insane, but it’s unknown exactly how far FIBA will go to punish the offending parties. Greece and Serbia are definitely players in the World Championship scene, and a significant suspension could definitely throw a wrench into the preliminary games. However, the NBA really doesn’t seem to have an jurisdiction to punish Nenad Krstic here. Though David Stern may want to reach across the globe, he really has no call to punish the Thunder big man.