Tag: Team USA


Winderman: Summer shows love of the three not NBA fad


Well, this was quite unexpected, but apparently we’ve arrived in the summer of three love.

It started with the Heat dropping a championship-winning barrage of 3-pointers on the Thunder in the deciding game of the NBA Finals, Mike Miller somehow displaying anguish and rapture at the same time while hobbling from arc to arc on that late-June evening.

It has continued with a shoot-’til-you-drop approach from the U.S. Olympic team, which has been on a record-setting pace from beyond the shorter international circle.

And now, as the final coaching vacancy of the offseason is filled, Terry Stotts arrives in Portland with the proclamation that the 3-point line will stand among the lines of attack for his Trail Blazers.
And to think, only months ago, many, apparently including Dwight Howard, were deriding the Magic’s approach of loading up from beyond the circle.

Then again, among the offseason’s biggest moves was the Heat, already armed with the longball from Miller, Shane Battier, James Jones and Mario Chalmers, opting not to go for needed size, but instead for a pair of all-time 3-point marksmen in Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.

Nearly as surprising, at least in terms of dollars, was Ryan Anderson’s shift from the Magic to the Hornets in a sign-and-trade, a power forward coveted for his 3-point range.

This isn’t to say that coaches won’t continue to stew when the attempts from beyond the arc outnumber the attempts from the foul line.

But when the likes of Mike Krzyzewski, the somewhat stodgy Trail Blazers and the very stodgy Heat are approving of offense from distance, the Mike D’Antoni and Stan Van Gundy fad of recent years, even in their coaching absences, appears to have morphed into a full-fledged trend.

From an aesthetic standpoint, there is plenty to be said about the 3-pointer. Arguably, the most exciting plays in the game are the 3-pointer and the dunk. With the spacing provided by the 3-pointer, the dunks often follow, as witnessed by the Heat’s performance in the NBA Finals and much of USA Basketball’s play in the Olympics.

Inevitably, coaches will get back to talking about grinding and defense, because that’s what they always do, a controlled game perceived as a better-coached game.

But this offseason has presented possibilities for something really fun, something that should be given the opportunity to endure.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

USA starts pretty blah, Kobe and LeBron help them run away from Aussies late

Australian guard Matt Dellavedova (L) ch

There are certain boxers and MMA fighters that nobody looks fighting good against. Even the fighters with all the style get sucked into an ugly grappling contest, nobody looks pretty in the ring/octagon against these guys.

That is Australian basketball.

For three quarters against Team USA the Aussies were physical, they mucked up the game, they made sure it wasn’t pretty and they hit a few threes. Australia played well and exactly how they wanted. They kept it close. But behind a triple-double from LeBron James (11 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists) and some hot shooting from Kobe Bryant, the Americans pulled away in the fourth quarter to win 119-86.

Next up is a third game in three weeks against a good Argentina side. The Olympic semifinal is at 4 p.m. Eastern Friday. Win that and the Americans will play for the gold on Sunday.

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves because Argentina likes to grind out the game like Australia, the South Americans just do it better and have more skill.

And the Aussies gave the USA some trouble. Just like they did four years ago in the Beijing Olympics — Australia plays physical and can be tough to play against. There was not a great flow to the game but the USA was up 28-21 after one and you kept waiting for the big run in the second. But it never came, it was more ugly, more grinding. The USA still kept playing a little better and was up 14 at the break.

Then Australia opened second half on an 11-0 run, bringing it down to 56-53 lead for the USA. The USA needed a spark.

They got a one from the guy getting shredded on twitter. Kobe Bryant was 0-5 shooting with three turnovers by a few minutes into the third quarter, and after guarding Aussie star Patty Mills in the first half he was switched off him (Chris Paul took over). He was having a bad half. Anyone who has seen Kobe struggle over the years knows what is next — he is going to shoot his way out of it.

He did. And it worked. Kobe hit back-to-back threes in the third — one catch-and-shoot, then made a steal and knocked down a transition three — and that sparked a little run by the USA that got it back up to 14. In the fourth Kobe couldn’t miss from three as he racked up 20 second half points.

In the fourth, the USA picked up their defensive pressure and Australia just did not have the depth of talent to hang with it. The USA was back to putting on a show with Kobe threes (six total in the second half), LeBron passes and even an impressive James Harden dunk. They ran away and hid.

Deron Williams had 18 and Carmelo Anthony 17 for the United States. Mills (the former St. Mary star who played for the Blazers and Spurs) led the Aussies with 26.

It was a win and in the end that’s all that matters for the USA. But now they will have to beat a good Argentinian team who has played them very well for five of the eight quarters when the two teams have met in recent weeks. They have Manu Ginobili playing very well and good guys around him like Carlos Delfino and Luis Scola. The USA will have to play better.

In the two meetings thus far Argentina has not been able to keep up with the runs of the USA and that has been the difference. But for the USA to do it a third time they will need a better game, a more consistent defensive effort than we saw against Australia.

Rest of world not really thrilled with under-23 Olympics idea

Nike Athletes Wear Their New Uniforms and Footwear For The London 2012 Olympic Games

After the Olympics end the discussion of whether future games should follow the soccer model and be an under-23 event will grow louder.

But a lot has to happen to pull it off. FIBA has to buy in. The elite players have to by in (they have the ultimate power because if the elite players stay away from the World Cup it will die fast).

And the rest of the world has to buy in — you think the USA should send an under-23 team while Spain still gets to send the Gasol brothers? No. It’s all or nothing and the NBA owners want to change the rules for the rest of the world.

And the rest of the world may not be so thrilled with the idea. Certainly not the guys from Russia and Lithuania, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo Sports.

“I would hope that the countries would be in an uproar about this,” Russia coach David Blatt told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday “Who is one country to determine for everyone how international basketball should be played, and particularly how the Olympic Games should be managed? It’s not supposed to be like that. If it’s a global game, it’s a global game.”

“We went to the qualification in Venezuela on the first of June, and some of our players came straight after they finished (professional) seasons,” (Lithuania’s coach Kestutis) Kemzura said. “Of course (the Olympics) matters. We were fighting for this place. I don’t understand this idea of sending younger players, not sending our best to the Olympics. I do not understand it.

“If we leave everything on money, and money runs the show, where’s the sport? Where’s national team idea?”

The idea of changing the Olympic basketball tournament to an under-23 event is an NBA and American driven discussion. And like most American-driven pushes for change, it’s about money.

NBA owners — with David Stern as the front man — love the idea of changing the Olympics because they want to make more money by having a piece of the largest international tournament. Their goal is to partner with FIBA on a growing World Cup or start a new event. The owners see the Olympics as a cash cow they don’t get a taste of.

That’s not how the owners will sell it, they will say this about injuries and health concerns of the players they care so much about. However, the advanced stats and studies show the risk injury does not go up and actually guys tend to play better coming off these kinds of events. Don’t let anyone tell you differently — this is all about money. It’s always about money for the owners.

All of which is to say this is a really hard sell. Other countries will be hesitant (the NBA owners will have to share the wealth from their new event, and they don’t share money well). Star players — who see the Olympics as a proven way to grow their global brands (and you can throw in patriotism if you want) — will be hesitant. Shoe companies will be hesitant (back to the brand thing). Plus, it just feels wrong to say the best players in the world (LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant) can’t come to the Olympics.

But opposition has never stopped the NBA owners before. They will continue to make this push. Stern is just starting to learn what he is up against.

USA shouldn’t have much trouble with Australia to open medal round

Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook,  Chris Paul

The medal round. This is what we’ve been waiting for. When things get serious. Win and advance, lose and you go home. Three wins and you get a gold. The pressure is on now.

Except, for the USA the first game of the medal round should be their easiest game in a week.

The USA, undefeated winners of Group A, face Australia, the fourth place team in Group B. Let me explain the talent difference between these two sides this way: Not only would none of the Australian players make Team USA, none of them even would have been invited to the USA Select Team of young players who train with Team USA.

Australia is led by Patty Mills, who is tied with Pau Gasol as the leading scorer in the Olympics at 20.6 per game. You know him as former St. Mary’s star who played in China during the lockout then returned to join the Spurs last season. But Mills barely got off the bench in San Antonio when it mattered. And he’s the only name on the Australian team you would know.

But sometimes you can overcome wide talent disparity of the matchups favor you… nope, that’s not happening.

One of the reasons Mills doesn’t get off the bench in the NBA much is he can be pressured into turnovers and bad decisions (and his instinct is to shoot not pass anyway). The USA has taken a “cut the head off the snake” defensive approach to these games — pressure and deny the ball to the opponent’s best player. Take him out of the game.

Mills can expect Chris Paul and Deron Williams to hound him all night long. Then Russell Westbrook will take over the task. And if they get bored Andre Iguodala or Kobe Bryant will jump in. Mills is in for a long night, and that’s not good for his teammates.

On the other end of the court, expect Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony to put up points. Expect LeBron James to be setting guys up. Expect some big dunks. Expect Anthony Davis to be able to enter the game early if he remembers to put on his jersey. Expect the USA to pretty much run away and hide in this one. If they don’t, it’s on them.

Come Friday the USA will have a tougher game, against Brazil or Argentina. This is the last one of the London Olympics where the USA should have an easy time of it. They need to enjoy it — and not pick up any bad habits along the way. Because this is still the medal round.

Pau Gasol on verge of tying legendary Olympics scoring record

Pau Gasol

When Brazilian basketball legend turned broadcaster Oscar Schmidt showed up for a Team USA practice, students of the game like Carmelo Anthony went up to him and asked if they could take a picture with him. Schmidt is an international legend.

And he was the leading scorer in the Olympics in 1988, 1992 (more points per game than Charles Barkley or any Dream Teamer) and 1996.

Pau Gasol may beat equal that mark, (something noted by the ESPN stats department).

Gasol is fluid and skilled in the post, a lethal scorer. (Note to Mike Brown, may want to get him some touches there next season. Just an idea.) Plus Gasol can step out and knock down the midrange. Gasol has been the anchor of the Spanish offense for more than a decade.

Gasol was the leading scorer of the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the 2008 games in Beijing. Do it one more time and he ties Schmidt.

Gasol is tied as the London Olympics’ leading scorer with Patty Mills of Australia at 20.6 points per game. Right behind them are Argentinians Luis Scola (20.2) and Manu Ginobili (20, and arguably the guy playing the best overall in games). Kevin Durant leads the USA at 18.6 per contest.

Mills has one more game, against the USA and its defense aimed at “cutting off the head” — take out the best scorer of the other team, make him give up the rock. Mills is going to get hounded Wednesday. If Kobe wants to do his Laker teammate a solid, he could shut down Mills.

The question is what happens to Gasol’s scoring average against the better teams of the medal round? Be careful asking Lakers fans about them, some of them are oddly biased against Gasol. Because what’s he ever done for them?