Tag: USA Basketball

Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook,  Chris Paul

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


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?

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.