Tag: Team USA

Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol on verge of tying legendary Olympics scoring record


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?

Carmelo got punched in the, um, groin by Argentina. But we’ve seen worse.

Anthony of the U.S. grimaces on the court after being fouled during match against Argentina at their men's preliminary round Group A basketball match at the Basketball Arena during the London 2012 Olympic Games

Things got a little testy… wait, poor choice of words.

Things got a little chippy between the USA and Argentina at the end of the third quarter as the USA was running away with Monday’s Olympic pool play contest. (Yes, that’s better phrasing.) Carmelo Anthony was going up with a three as the quarter ended and Argentina’s Facundo Campazzo punched him in a place a man least wants to be punched. You can watch the video by following this link.

Carmelo Anthony was none to pleased when talking about it Tuesday before practice.

“It was definitely a cheap shot. Something like that, I don’t play like that, I don’t agree with that,” Anthony said. “If you’re going to foul somebody … foul them hard, but you don’t take a shot like that. So I don’t agree with that, but at this point there’s really nothing that nobody can do about it.”

It was a cheap shot. It led to Tyson Chandler and other team USA guys chirping at the Argentinians, with Luis Scola ready to give it right back. If you ask me, that’s ejection worthy.

There are some Americans out there who seem outraged by this play.

Those people must not watch NBA games, because we see that kind stuff all the time, it’s just usually more subtle.

Do I need to bring up when Metta World Peace did not live up to his name and gave James Harden a concussion? I’m talking about what Reggie Evans did to Chris Kaman (grabbing where ‘Melo got punched), I’m talking the kind of thing Chris Paul and Kevin Garnett will try to pull off nightly. Kobe Bryant went up in these Olympics and elbowed Lithuania’s Jonas Valanciunas in the throat.

None of this is new, Steve Aschburner of NBA.com reminds us — Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, Bruce Bowen and many other great players were happy to take little cheap shots. If you think it is bad now, talk to guys from the 1960s. But this is America, whatever helps you win.

And while you’re at it you can ask Duke’s opponents if Mike Krzyzewski’s teams are saintly and clean.

This kind of shot is part of basketball at the highest level (do it in a high school game and you should be tossed). Cheap, yes, but far from uncommon. Campazzo wasn’t exactly subtle and if a retaliatory elbow found him during a potential semi-final rematch it wouldn’t be a shock. But spare me any outrage. That was not an out of the blue NBA play.

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

US forward Carmelo Anthony (L)  and US f

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.