Tag: Mike Krzyzewski

London Olympics Basketball Men

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


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.

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.

Coach K says he is done, so who coaches in Rio in 2016?

Popovich, Rivers

Mike Krzyzewski says he is done.

He came in as USA Basketball restructured following the 2004 bronze medal in Athens, and he has coached two World Championships and two Olympics. USA Basketball president Jerry Colangelo says he is going to try and talk Coach K into staying, but Kobe Bryant couldn’t talk him into coming to the Lakers — it’s not easy to change his mind. Krzyzewski is done.

So who gets to go to Rio in four years as coach?

Everyone asked says one name first: Gregg Popovich.

He has the gravitas needed for this job — he is above the basketball political fray and he is former Air Force, someone who is patriotic and would take the job seriously. He can get guys to show up to play for him and get them to accept roles they might not with their club teams (Popovich would tell the guys what they can do with their egos). He also has a system that is perfect for the international game (have you watched the Spurs?) He can handle the pressure. He is the ideal fit.

The problem is he was a really good fit back in 2006 as well and he really wanted the mob, but it was passed over for Krzyzewski. According to reports it wasn’t just losing out on the job but how that happened — Colangelo promised a meeting with Popovich that never happened, then seemed to suggest Popovich didn’t want the job as badly. He did. And he’s still angry about it.

Popovich is the best choice, but Colangelo needs to swallow some pride and have an honest sit down with Popovich.

If not him, the other front runner appears to be Doc Rivers, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Rivers also has the gravitas and respect of players to be able to come in and get players to fit a system. He was in London and could do some scouting up close of other world powers. He has been an assistant coach with Team USA before and he also would work well with the superstar expected to be at Rio in 2016 (the idea of a 23-and-under tournament is likely 2020, if even then).

Rivers tried to throw out Sixers coach and Olympic broadcaster Doug Collins, but he does not seem to be in consideration. Rick Pitino is reportedly trying to express interest in the job, but he is not really above the political fray of the game like Popovich and Rivers.

Spain pushes USA, but too much LeBron, CP3, Durant makes USA golden

US forward Kevin Durant and US forward L

Spain had what they needed — spark plug Juan Carlos-Navarro couldn’t miss early and would not let the USA run away with the game. Pau Gasol took it right to the USA’s weakness in the second half and had 15 points in the third quarter to put his team ahead at one point.

But the USA had what they needed. They had 30 points from Kevin Durant who was so hot Spain was forced to go to a box-and-1 defense to shut him down. Chris Paul pressured on defense and controlled the tempo, then made key buckets late. Then LeBron James capped off as great a year as a basketball player could have — NBA MVP, NBA champion, gold medal — with key baskets to help the USA seal the game in the fourth quarter.

It ended 107-100 and the USA didn’t just win the gold medal, they had to earn it.

It was a fun, entertaining game for fans from the start — both teams started out shooting well. For Spain it was former Grizzlies guard Juan Carlos Navarro knocking down threes (12 of first 16 points for Spain). On the other side Kobe Bryant (who finished with 17) and Durant were knocking down buckets. Both teams were working the ball inside-out. Spain played a zone but early the USA drove down the lane and shot over the top of it.

So when Spain started to miss a little the USA went on a 10-2 run and they were up nine quickly. The USA hit 7-of-10 threes in the first quarter and they cannot be beat by anyone when those shots are falling. Kevin Durant finished with a game-high 30 points and 156 for the entire Olympics — the most any single player has scored in an Olympic tournament. Ever. Durant has cemented himself as the best pure scorer on the planet right now.

But when the USA’s threes don’t fall, the USA can be caught. Especially when they don’t defend well. Spain answer on a 14-2 run early in the second quarter and Spain kept it a one-point play at the half because their guards hung with the USA’s guards. Some overzealous officiating helped Spain as well as there were 22 fouls called in the second half, destroying any flow to the game. The USA needs that flow.

In the third, Pau Gasol showed all of us why he is so deadly in the post (Lakers fans should hope Mike Brown was watching and realizes he needs to get Gasol post touches, not have him live at the elbow). Gasol hit a running hook over Tyson Chandler, he spun and dunked around Kevin Love. Gasol had 15 points in the third quarter and finished with 24 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists.

It was 83-82 USA after three quarters. But Spain rested Pau and the USA went on a 12-4 run to stretch out their lead, a lead they never relinquished.

In part because Chris Paul was probably the best player on the floor in the second half. (Even with all the additions he may well be the best player in Los Angeles next year.) He pressured the Spanish guards up high on defense — Spain hit no threes in the second half after 7 in the first half. CP3 controlled the tempo of the game and late hit a three and had a nifty little drive for a bucket. But he controlled the flow, he was the floor general.

Then when Spain would make a push, LeBron pushed back. He hit a three, he played a two-man handoff game with Durant that led to a dunk (their two man handoff pick-and-roll was the USA’s best play through the Olympics). Durant didn’t have a big fourth quarter but because he had been so key earlier Spain focused their defense on him and that opened things up. Then there were good plays by Kobe and others.

It was too much. Spain played well but their problem was they were not the better, deeper, more talented team. They needed the USA’s help to win and the USA’s best players wouldn’t give it to them. They stepped up.

And so for the 14th time since Olympic basketball started, the USA is golden.

USA vs. Spain for the gold: We know how this is going to end

US forward Carmelo Anthony (R) celebrate

USA vs. Spain for the gold: We know how this is going to end. USA gold.

Spain has some real talent — Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol team up to make what would be the best front line in the NBA (well, maybe not anymore) and they surround the brothers with smart, playmaking guards who can shoot — Jose Calderon, Juan Carlos-Navarro, Rudy Fernandez. Spain can put up points.

And Spain has a plan for the USA — they learned some things in that exhibition loss to Team USA in Barcelona before the Olympics. Spain ran a zone on 15 of the 78 possessions in that game and the USA was 3-for-12 shooting with three turnovers against it. Expect to see a lot more of it now. Also, the USA struggled with the combo of Pau and Serge Ibaka, so Spain went away from it in that game, they will not go away from what works now.

And none of that is going to matter in the Gold Medal game Sunday.

When Team USA is playing well — when they are focused, pressuring on defense, sharing the ball and hitting threes — nobody can beat them. Nobody can stay close to them. Not Spain, not anybody.

And the USA, with as deep a team as they have had (at least since ’92) someone has always gotten hot. Usually it has been designated shooters Kevin Durant (18 points per game and shooting 55.8 percent from three for the Olympics) or Carmelo Anthony (17.4 points per game and 52.5 percent from three), but we have seen spurts of unstoppable play from LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook and everyone but Anthony Davis.

When the USA has struggled with teams — Lithuania, stretches against Argentina and even Australia — it is because two things happen. First, they take their foot off the defensive gas pedal, the pressure and intensity go away. Part of the USA’s strength is the depth of great athletes that wear teams down, but if the USA lets Spain have space and time to think they have the talent to make plays. They have to be pressured (and they have the talent to still make some good plays, just not enough).

Second, the threes don’t fall. That is the one thing that could undo the United States in the Gold Medal game. They are going to take more than 30 threes and if they hit 20 percent or less Spain has the offensive firepower to hang. Spain will live in their zone and let the USA launch threes all day.

But eventually they will fall. There is too much talent on the USA, too many good shooters, the shots will start to fall. They may not for a quarter or maybe a half, but they will.

And then the USA will run away with the game and gold. Spain is a good team, but nobody in the world is good enough.