Tag: Team USA

Popovich, Rivers

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


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.

LeBron James hints that he may not return for Rio in 2016

James of the U.S. goes in for a lay-up past Lithuania's Kleiza during their men's preliminary round Group A basketball match at the Basketball Arena during the London 2012 Olympic Games

LeBron James just won his second gold medal. He was the best player in the Olympics, he is the best player in the world, and there can be no doubt of his place in history that is still growing. And as usual, most of the time when you get through with all the work that goes in and how exhausting it is, you want to get away from it. We see it with Olympic athletes all over, see it with professionals after their seasons. Things can be dramatically different in four years. But provided that no drastic changes occur to the structure of the Olympcis with regards to the 2016 team in Rio still allowing those over 23 without exceptions, it’s not a sure thing LeBron James will be back.

From USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt:

LeBron James: “It’s been a great run honestly. I don’t know if I’m going to be part of the 2016 team.”

via Twitter / JeffZillgitt: LeBron James: “It’s been ….

That’s not a no. Kobe Bryant said no. He’s done. He’s out. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski says he’s out. James is simply a maybe. James will be 31 then. There’s little reason to believe that his skill set will have eroded. But he may need the rest that goes with getting older. There’s so much wear and tear on the body, it’s hard to see him wanting to go through it. But he would be in a position to win a third, and that would put him in a class by himself.

There’s a long way to go, and it’s too soon to tell. But it should be noted that right off the bat, the Chosen One isn’t sold on being chosen for 2016.

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.