Tag:Russell Westbrook
Posted on: August 27, 2010 1:44 pm
Edited on: August 27, 2010 1:46 pm
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Your guide to the 2010 FIBA World Championships



Posted by Royce Young


The 2010 FIBA World Championships tip off tomorrow and let's be honest, outside of Team USA and a handful of NBA players scattered around other teams, we all don't know a ton about it. So here's your cheat sheet to catch up on the important parts of the games:

10 NON-NBA PLAYERS TO WATCH
Miroslav Raduljica, Serbia - The big Serbian was going to play a large role in this year's games before Nenad Krstic was suspended for three contests. Now, Serbia's early success may very well hinge on Raduljica. He runs the floor well, has soft hands and is one of the most improved players in Europe. He's eligible to enter the NBA draft next year and with a big showing in Turkey, might see his stock skyrocket.

Tibor Pleiss, Germany - Pleiss is property of the Oklahoma City Thunder and was taken in the early second round of this year's draft. He's 7'1, skilled with a lovely jumper that stretches out near the 3 and has an improving post game. He's already a quality rebounder and shot blocker, though as is the case with most young European big men, he needs strength. He's definitely an NBA caliber player at some point and he's one of Germany's top players. If Germany makes some noise in Turkey, it'll likely be because Pleiss did some breaking out.

Juan Carlos Navarro, Spain - Ah, the elusive JCN, or La Bomba as he's endearingly called in Spain. He's known in the States because of a brief stint with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2007-08, but is known across international basketball as one of the most crafty, creative and skilled guards in the world. The lack of superior athleticism is what held him back in the NBA, but he has an array of runners, floaters and running jumpshots, plus is deadly when he's open. He's one of those players that's basically just fun to watch.

Ioannis Bourousis, Greece - Bourousis is coming back from a hand injury that forced him to miss most of Greece's exhibition games, but should be ready to go in Turkey. He's a massive seven-footer that weighs in at 280 pounds. Like Tim Duncan, he trained to be a professional swimmer before getting to big for the pool. He's surprisingly smooth on the post and at 26, has improved his game a lot since 2006 when the U.S. played Greece.

Victor Claver, Spain - Property of the Portland Trail Blazers, Claver is a classic swingman that prefers to run the floor and shoot jumpers. He's not strong and not a great ballhandler, but does finish well at the rim. He's huge at 6'10, but only weighs about 215 pounds. Teams with physical forwards will beat him up, but running the floor with Ricky Rubio will give him a chance to showcase his talents in the open court.

Matthew Nielsen, Australia - The Euro Cup Final Four MVP for Valencia last season, Nielsen is an accomplished international player. He's 32 and has spent time on multiple national teams for Australia. He's not overly skilled, but he's big at 6'10 and moves well. He scores outworking players inside, but is a quality post-up threat.

Tiago Splitter, Brazil - He counts here because he's not in the NBA yet. A recent signee of the Spurs, Splitter will be a player that NBA fanatics will have a close eye on these next few weeks. We've all heard about his skills for the last few years, but most haven't had a chance to see them in action. He's incredibly gifted around the basket and if he plays well, Brazil may make a run to the semi-finals.

Timofey Mozgov, Russia - Same as Splitter, Mozgov will be in the NBA next year with the New York Knicks. He's a true big man at 7'1, but runs the floor well. He's not especially polished offensively, but he uses his big body well. A lot of people have compared him to Marcin Gortat or Andris Biedrins because he scores a lot by playing physical inside. He'll be a project for the Knicks, but he'll be a feature for the Russians.

Ante Tomic, Croatia - Tomic is a gifted big man that has drawn comparisons to Pau Gasol because of his excellent footwork, soft touch and passing ability. He has range that stretches out close to the international 3, and is a player Croatia will likely center their offense around. He's rail thin though and his lack of strength is what really hurts him when talking about taking his game up a notch.

Ricky Rubio, Spain - Everyone knows about the flashy passes. Everyone's seen the YouTube mixtapes. Everyone knows he has a ton of talent. But not a lot of people have seen him actually play a full basketball game, outside of 2008's gold medal game. With Jose Calderon out, this team is Rubio's. He'll play the bulk of the minutes and run the show. He's a bit turnover prone and his stat line never seems to impress, but it's all about watching him. A game where he scores five points, dishes out four assists and has four steals may not seem like much, but he seriously impacted the game.

THE UNITED STATES GROUP PREVIEW
Most consider Group B to be the toughest in Turkey. Obviously there's Team USA, but Brazil, Slovenia and Croatia are all capable squads that should advance out of this group.

Brazil
NBA players: Anderson Varejao, Leandro Barbosa, Tiago Splitter, Nene (out with injury)

Prior to Nene's injury, Brazil was becoming a trendy pick to make the semi-finals and possibly the finals. The talent is there and it's not just in NBA players only. Former NBA players Alex Garcia and Marcus Vinicius clearly have skill, but Marcelo Machado is an excellent sharpshooter, Marcelo Huertas is a crafty point guard and Wellington Dos Santos may actually be faster than Barbosa.

Former Gonzaga star J.P. Batista has the ability to anchor the interior with Splitter and Varejao and with a combination of size and speed, Brazil is a team to take notice of. They want to play up-tempo and high pressure defense, and they have the players to do it.

Croatia
NBA players: Roko Ukic

The Croatians are a squad that doesn't have a ton of top tier talent, but is deep and filled with quality players. The aforementioned Ante Tomic is the key. If he plays well and stays consistent throughout, Croatia could be a team that goes deeper than expected.

Iran
NBA players: Hamed Haddadi

This isn't a bad team. They aren't good, but they aren't that bad. They likely won't advance out of the group stage, but they definitely are a candidate to win a game or two. Teams like the United States will steamroll them, but they could definitely sneak up on Croatia and Slovenia, potentially making a little noise to finish in the top four.

Slovenia
NBA players: Goran Dragic, Primoz Brezec

As it is now, Slovenia is good. But if it had its entire roster with players like Beno Udrih, Sasha Vujacic, Rasho Nesterovic and Erazem Lorbek it could be really good. Slovenia should battle Croatia for third in this group, but is definitely good enough to get to second. It all hinges on Goran Dragic. He needs to score and create and if he can continue his good play, Slovenia should be fine.

Tunisia
NBA players: None

This is easily the worst team in the group. Its goal should be to maybe beat Iran and then keep games within 20. There's simply not enough talent on the roster to stay competitive. Honestly, Team USA could let Jim Boeheim and Nate McMillan start and it would still be a cakewalk.

United States
NBA players: Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Rudy Gay, Andre Iguodala, Lamar Odom, Tyson Chandler, Chauncey Billups, Danny Granger, Stephen Curry

The clear favorite to win Group B and a favorite to win the whole thing. Obviously, Team USA has the most talent in the entire field. But playing together is the key. Coach K has done a fine job of establishing roles for players, but the lack of interior size could hurt the Americans the deeper the tournament goes. A game against Brazil in this group could be the only hangup, but Croatia and Slovenia aren't pushovers.

Despite this group probably be the toughest in the tournament, anything less that a 5-0 start for Team USA would be disappointing.

Predicted finish:
1. United States
2. Brazil
3. Slovenia
4. Croatia
5. Iran
6. Tunisia

FOUR GROUP STAGE GAMES TO WATCH
Saturday, August 28: Spain vs. France - Two traditional soccer powerhouses field pretty solid basketball teams. Spain should win, but Nicolas Batum has emerged as a go-to player for France to seeing him compete and defend the Spanish roster will be fun.

Monday, August 30: Brazil vs. USA - The winner of this game will likely win the group. It should be a fun game to watch too as both teams play pressure defense and prefer to push the pace. This one could easily have 200 combined points.

Monday, August 30: Croatia vs. Slovenia - A European rivalry game with the winner surely locking in a place in the tournament, and probably third place in Group B.

Tuesday, August 31: Greece vs. Turkey - Someone might be killed during this game. No, seriously. Both these teams HATE each other. I don't know if this will so much be a basketball game, as a 40-minute hip-checking contest.

THE FAVORITES
United States - The most talent in the field, though maybe the least chemistry. The U.S. squad will have to find its identity and find it fast.

Spain - A chic pick to win gold, Spain has the talent, chemistry and leadership to win. Losing Jose Calderon hurts only the sense that backcourt depth is light. But if Spain is to seriously make this run, a player like Rudy Fernandez is going to have to elevate his game and play well.

Greece - The smallest player on the team is Vassilis Spanoulis, and he's "only" 6'4. So in other words, the Greek's are big. Greece is massive and what they lack in athleticism, they make up for in size and skill.

Argentina
- The USA's old nemesis, Argentina has NBA talent in Carlos Delfino, Luis Scola and Fabrico Oberto. They'll surely miss Andres Nocioni and Manu Ginobili, but this is a team that should make an easy run to the quarters, probably the semifinals and possibly the finals.

Serbia - The suspensions to Nenad Krstic and Milos Teodosic definitely hurt, but there is enough on this roster still to get out of the group. And once they're full strength, this is a team that's good enough to be in the semifinals.

Brazil - The Brazilians seem to be flying a bit under the radar, but with a group of speedy, skilled players, they should get to the quarterfinals with ease and then past that, they're a tough matchup for anyone.

THE SLEEPERS
Turkey - The host country always seems to do well because the boost from a home crowd always helps. But Turkey has players too. There's Hedo Turkoglu, Ersan Ilyasova, Semih Erden and Omer Asik, all NBA players. Some are taking Turkey to get to the finals based only on the fact they're hosting, but they might get there because this roster has some serious talent.

Canada - Don't sleep on Canada. While not a lot of names on the roster jump out and there's no Steve Nash, they have all decent players and a few NBA guys in Joel Anthony and Andy Rautins. Canada beat Serbia and France in friendlies and isn't a walkover by any means.

Puerto Rico - This feisty group has three NBA players in J.J. Barea, Renaldo Balkman and Carlos Arroyo and has played well in exhibitions. They should get out of their group and in tournament play, they have the players to make a small run.

Australia - The Australians have slowly been building better basketball teams and this might be one of their best yet. There are two NBA players in David Andersen and Patty Mills, plus quality guys like A.J. Ogilvy and Matthew Nielsen. They lack athleticism, but if Mills can get his game going, Australia might sneak up on a few teams.

PREDICTION (see the full bracket)
Group A winner: Argentina (Serbia, Germany, Australia advance)
Group B winner: United States (Brazil, Slovenia, Croatia advance)
Group C winner: Greece (Turkey, Puerto Rico, Russia advance)
Group D winner: Spain (Lithuania, France, Canada advance)

Round of 16: Argentina defeats Croatia, Puerto Rico defeats Lithuania, Greece defeats Canada, Brazil defeats Germany, United States defeat Australia, Turkey defeats France, Spain defeats Russia, Slovenia defeats Serbia

Quarterfinals: Argentina defeats Puerto Rico, Brazil defeats Greece, United States defeat Turkey, Spain defeats Slovenia

Semifinals: Argentina defeats Brazil, United States defeat Spain

Third place: Spain defeats Brazil

Finals: United States defeat Argentina
Some don't like Team USA winning gold. But it's hard not to like them. The way the bracket sets up, if both Spain and the U.S. win their groups, they'll meet in the semifinals. So if the U.S. gets by Spain again, beat whoever comes their way in the gold medal game shouldn't be a huge issue.

The thing with Team USA is, they have more talent than anyone. They have more skill. They have more strength. They have more speed. They have more athleticism. The one thing they lack is size, and that's just in a traditional sense. Nobody can properly match up with the likes of Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant and Rudy Gay. Even figuring out how to guard Team USA's second unit would be tough. While no, this isn't a team full of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, this is a quality unit with a ton of talent. There will be some tough games for sure and the U.S. will rely on Rose and Durant to carry them through. But these guys should be up to the task to bring home gold for the first time since 1994.
Posted on: August 25, 2010 4:04 pm
Edited on: August 25, 2010 4:05 pm
 

Team USA rolls Greece 87-59

Posted by Royce Young

Wednesday's friendly featuring Team USA and Greece was nothing more than a formality. It was the last tuneup before the World Championships and despite the game being in Athens in front of a charged up crowd, the U.S. put a Nenad Krstic type beating on the Greeks.

Coach K played everyone and gave his roster a solid look as Team USA rolled to a 87-59 victory. We saw some interesting rotations and pairings that probably aren't any indication of what will be used in Turkey, but more of a "Let everyone play" type of thing.

The Americans stuck to the formula that has worked in their first three friendlies. Create turnovers, move in transition and defend. The things the U.S. didn't do so well was defend the interior (center Kostas Tsartsaris, starting in place of injured star Ioannis Bourousis, finished with 24 points). Lamar Odom started the game at the 5 for Team USA and didn't seem to handle the Greek big men very well. And this was without Sofo Schortsanitis who sat out the game after injuring his foot in pregame warmups.

Eric Gordon led the way for Team USA with 18 points, hitting four 3s. Kevin Durant adding 15 on 6-11 shooting, plus grabbed seven boards and dished three assists, a team high. Kevin Love led the way on the glass with 12 rebounds. Derrick Rose was maybe the most impressive American on the day, scoring 13 points on 6-7 from the field.

The most minutes anyone from Team USA played was 21 with no one playing fewer than 10. Greece only played 10 and was locked down by tight American defense, shooting just 40 percent from the floor and also only had one player score in double figures. The U.S. did a ton of damage on the glass as well, doubling Greece 44-22 in rebounds. All in all, with Greece sitting some of its premier players and the entire roster lacking an NBA player, the result was to be expected.

I assume Coach K has his rotations figured out and that's why he went with some unique pairings today. Figuring out when to play Durant at center, Russell Westbrook off the ball, Odom at the 5 or Rose, Gordon and Curry all together is not going to be easy. And today's exhibition really gave no inside glance into how Coach K plans on managing it.

There honestly wasn't a ton to take from this friendly because the U.S. was clearly just playing everyone and Greece wasn't at full tilt. But it did give a glimpse as to where Team USA has an advantage over teams like Greece. The U.S. has to continue to use its length, athleticism and speed in the open court to find easy looks. And in the halfcourt, the drive-and-kick is Team USA's best friend. Tyson Chandler has so far given very little on the interior and with no back-to-the-basket player, the Americans will have to find other ways to score. And when you have Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant and Rudy Gay, those ways tend to show themselves more often than not.
Posted on: August 24, 2010 1:58 pm
 

Rajon Rondo withdraws from Team USA

Celtics guard asks to be cut for personal reasons, final roster set.
Posted by Matt Moore

A shocking development came down the pipeline of Team USA today, as Rajon Rondo has been cut from the team, after asking to withdraw for personal reasons . Head of USA basketball Jerry Colangelo thanked Rondo for his effort and commitment and issued a statement of support for the Celtics guard. Rondo had been the starter for Team USA, but had also looked lackadaiscal and dispassionate for long stretches.

The final cut was widely talked about being between Stephen Curry, whose game fits well on the international stage but who has been battling injury, and Russell Westbrook, the lowest name guard on roster. With Rondo out, they both make the team. Losing Rondo hurts in several key areas however. While a lot of talk has been about the lack of shooting on Team USA, an area Rondo was not equipped to help in, his pressure perimeter defense and distribution skills were unmatched among the plethora of guards Coach K and Colangelo decided to take overseas. Losing him means Derrick Rose will need to step up considerably on both sides of the ball to be the distributor, with Chauncey Billups primarily playing shooting guard for the club.

The final Team USA roster, finalized today with Rondo's withdrawal:

Chauncey Billups (Denver Nuggets)
Tyson Chandler (Dallas Mavericks)
Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Rudy Gay (Memphis Grizzlies)
Eric Gordon (Los Angeles Clippers)
Danny Granger (Indiana Pacers)
Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers)
Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Lamar Odom
(Los Angeles Lakers)
Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls)
Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)

The 2010 FIBA World Championships begin Saturday.
Posted on: August 22, 2010 5:26 pm
Edited on: August 22, 2010 5:35 pm
 

USA defeats Spain 86-85 in an exhibition classic

Posted by Royce Young

With about 90 seconds left in Team USA's game against Spain Sunday, I had to stop and remind myself, "Wait, this is an exhibition. It doesn't even count." But it felt like it did. And both teams played as if it did.

In a rematch of the 2008 gold medal game and what might have been a preview of this year's title game in Turkey, Team USA defeated Spain 86-85 in front of a rowdy sold out crowd in Madrid.

The game came down to a final possession as Kevin Durant bothered Ricky Rubio into an airball then won it for the U.S. with a block on Rudy Fernandez as time expired. Derrick Rose came up big for Team USA in crunch time on the other end hitting two free throws with 16 seconds remaining to put the U.S. up one.

Early on, it looked like the Americans would cruise to an easy victory. The States jumped out to a 16-3 lead hitting seven of their first 10 shots while Spain was ice cold, starting just 1-10. But the Spaniards were pesky. Despite the sluggish start, Spain stayed close and used a big third quarter run to cut the U.S. to two, eventually tying the score at 80-80 with about three minutes left in the fourth.

The game against Lithuania was an excellent learning experience for the young group of Americans because Team USA had to overcome some adversity and poor offense to eventually pull away from a gritty group. Today's game against Spain is an equally important test but in a different way. Team USA was pushed and had to figure out what it would do in difficult times. Where does the ball go in crunch time? Who's handling the ball in a close game? Who's defending their playmakers? All these questions finally got a first answer put to them.

Durant finally found his offense, scoring 25 points in his usual effortless manner. He was 9-16 from the floor and in key moments late, the offense centered around him. After Spain took its first lead of the game 82-80 with about two minutes remaining, the U.S. immediately went to Durant who hit a tough baseline runner to knot the score again. It may have been only an exhibition, but these were some defining moments for Team USA, as this young group begins to find some identity and understand roles.

Another potentially interesting thing to mention was Coach K's rotations at the end of the game. Lamar Odom saw time at center over Tyson Chandler who didn't play well. Also, Russell Westbrook subbed in on defense for Chauncey Billups meaning that Westbrook likely will make the final 12-man if anything for at least a defensive stopper.

Both Danny Granger and Rajon Rondo sat today, but the feeling there is that it was for no other reason than to get some rest and give some extended looks to guys competing for that final spot. Kevin Love also didn't play because of a hard fall Saturday against Lithuania, but is fine and will be ready for the next game.

Obviously, with this being a friendly, it's safe to assume both teams held a little something back. Both squads surely expect to each one another again at some point in the tournament and didn't want to show too many cards. But at the same time, both groups wanted to win. Spain's guards were tough for the U.S. to handle and Marc Gasol chewed up Team USA on the inside. On the flip side, the Team USA's athleticism was too much for Spain to keep up with and in big moments the U.S. had proven playmakers while Spain didn't have somewhere to go.

If we really learned anything certain to take away from this exhibition it's that if these two teams meet again, it should be a whole heck of a lot of fun.

Posted on: August 21, 2010 7:41 pm
Edited on: August 21, 2010 7:43 pm
 

Team USA struggles, beats Lithuania 77-61

Posted by Royce Young

It may have just been an exhibition, but Team USA was pushed Saturday against Lithuania for three quarters, before pulling away to a 77-61 in Madrid. The reasons for the closer-than-expected game? Sloppy passing, bad offense and more bad offense.

What kept the U.S. from being blown out in the first 20 minutes was a strong defensive effort that held Lithuania to just 28 first half points. The problem though, was that the Americans only had 29. A lot of the issues could be summed up in a wide open fast break dunk blown by Rudy Gay. The U.S. was careless with the ball, missed open jumpers and didn't finish the easy inside looks.

The guy that is supposed to be reliable on the offensive end continued to struggle a bit. Kevin Durant led the team with 15 points, but missed every outside jumper he took and scored mostly at the rim and from the free throw line. So far in his three international games, Durant is 14-38 from the floor and 0-7 from 3. As someone that's watched Durant play a lot, it looks to me like he's pressing a bit.

In games where Durant wasn't able to just relax and play, he struggled at times last season. Coach K talked about how KD needed to be more unselfish and sometimes with a guy like Durant who plays a certain way without thinking much about it, that can get into his head some. There's obviously nothing to worry about with KD because he's got one of the smoothest strokes in the game and can score 25 in his sleep, but his three games thus far haven't exactly set the world on fire. I have no doubt he'll get it going though because even in games where he doesn't play exceptional, he's always good. Heck, even games he goes 13-17 for 44 points he thinks all night about the four missed shots. So don't fret about KD.

Durant's teammate Russell Westbrook on the other hand, made a strong statement for a roster spot. He was named MVP of the game scoring 12 points while really kicking his team into gear with a ton of high energy off the bench. He had his jumper going as he hit two 3s and was a menace defensively, hawking Lithuania's guards all over the floor. Westbrook is likely a bubble guy, but showed today where he could have value. He's not a strong shooter, but he's a player that is valuable in a number of different areas. He defends, rebounds, penetrates, creates and sometimes when he gets that jumper going, can score at will.

There's no telling which direction Jerry Colangelo and Coach K are leaning on picking between Stephen Curry, Eric Gordon and Westbrook (the three likely competing for the last roster spot) but for the most part, Curry and Gordon do the same things, at least on this roster. Westbrook provides a number of different skills. So a combination of Westbrook plus either Curry or Gordon to go with Chauncey Billups, Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo might make the most sense.

It wasn't a pretty 40 minutes of basketball for the Americans, but Lithuania gave Team USA a good push. That's definitely a good thing because it gives Coach K something to point out in the film room plus is a minor wake up call that you can't just waltz through this tournament. These teams may not have a name on them that you recognize or can pronounce, but they can still play.

Team USA takes on Spain in another exhibition in Madrid Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. The game can be seen on NBATV.
Posted on: August 20, 2010 4:56 pm
Edited on: August 20, 2010 4:58 pm
 

Playing for country, risking the future

Posted by Royce Young

If you ask Sam Presti what he thinks of three of his Thunder players competing in the World Championships, he'd give you the scripted answer. He'd say how he's excited about the opportunity for them, how he's encouraged them to play hard there and how he thinks the competition will only make them better.

Actually, Presti pretty much already said exactly that. “We know that, more than likely, our guys are going to be playing somewhere during the summer, whether it’s in a gym in L.A. or D.C. or wherever it is,” Presti said in an interview with thunder.nba .com. “But given the opportunity to compete against the best players in the NBA in a structured environment is really a great development opportunity for the guys as a whole and it’s certainly better than any pick-up game they can find elsewhere.”

But I'm guessing if you could really ask him and get a candid answer, he'd probably say he's a bit terrified. Excited for them no doubt, but certainly nervous. And you can bank that he's definitely not the only one.

With injuries piling up for NBA stars that are competing this summer internationally, the fear for coaches, GMs and fans rises as well. So far we've seen a sprained ankle for Stephen Curry, a dislocated finger for Danny Granger, an ankle injury to Anderson Varejao , plus there are potential for incidents like we saw yesterday with Nenad Krstic . Plus, the worst yet, a broken foot for Rodrigue Beaubois. Any time players compete, the chance for injury or issue is there.

Take the Dallas Mavericks for example. Other than Beaubois' injury, the Mavs have reason to squirm a bit. Tyson Chandler was one of the Mavs biggest moves of the offseason . And with the rash of problems with Team USA's big men, Chandler is the only center on the roster. That means if coach Mike Krzyzewski wants to have an actual center on the floor, Chandler would have to go the distance. That sound you just heard was Mark Cuban throwing up.

Chandler is a player that can barely go to his mailbox and grab his mail without getting hurt. And between practices, exhibition games and then actual games in Turkey, Chandler might pile up half a season of work before the season even starts. Plus, add in the fact that other teams know Chandler is the only big man on Team USA's roster, the fact other countries tend to play a little rougher against Team USA and the fact that international play can tend to get a little nasty, and you've got three strikes to be concerned about. And that's just with Tyson Chandler.

But what are teams supposed to do? Tell their guys they can't play? Of course they have to protect their investments and the best interests of their respective organizations, but you can't stop a player from playing for his country. This isn't North Korea. But at the same time, you can bet Cuban has Coach K on speed dial and has probably offered his opinion once or twice on Chandler's contributions.

There are lots of NBA players playing in the World Championships this year, as is the case now in international basketball. But for the most part, it doesn't matter if they're playing in Turkey or not, basketball players are prone to playing basketball. Whether that be on the blacktop or on the hardwood, injury risks are there all offseason . But it's not just the injury but the fatigue of playing a couple hundred extra minutes. Players might be worn down heading into training camp, a time they're supposed to be at their freshest. Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks senses that concern.

“Well they’re definitely going to need some time to just decompress and relax because it’s going to be a very high-intensity tournament,They’re going to play basketball all year long. Kevin, I wanted him to take a couple of weeks off and he took two days off," Brooks said in an interview with an OKC radio station. "There’s going to be a little bit of time where I’ll say ‘OK, you guys gotta rest,’ and maybe I can rest them a few days during that month of October, but it’s going to be like pulling teeth to get those guys to sit out of things.”

Kobe Bryant talked about the kind of wear and tear he felt after playing 82 games, then another 30 or so in the postseason and then another 15 in the 2008 Olympics. He only got about a month off to recover before he was revving back up for the 2008-09 season. Players like Rajon Rondo and Lamar Odom went deep into the postseason and are experiencing that long summer. Will it effect them during a back-to-back next February? Eh, hard to say. In fact, probably not. These guys are world-class athletes in world-class shape. But mentally it can tax on a player and the perception can be that all those games have caused someone to lose a step.

The ultimate fear is what happened to Beaubois. A serious injury that could potentially have an effect on the upcoming season. I'm sure Mark Cuban had a moment of "Why in the heck is he playing in this dumb thing?" But then again, Darren Collison was injured playing pickup ball. Making it through the summer unscathed is something GMs and coaches cross their fingers for, but international competition or not, risk for injury is there. But in the case of this summer, the Worlds just present more opportunity than usual.

Playing for country is almost a duty to some of these players. It seems like lip service when people like Kevin Durant say it's a dream and the ultimate pinnacle in basketball is having a gold medal placed around your neck while your anthem blares. But to these guys, it's means something. That doesn't mean there not risks involved and that front offices and fanbases can't be fretful. But if you want your players to get better and satisfy their ambitions to wear their country's colors, you've just to cross your fingers, say a little prayer and hope come October, everything is the way it should be.
Posted on: July 28, 2010 3:47 pm
Edited on: July 28, 2010 3:48 pm
 

Team USA: The Final 15

Posted by Royce Young

The first cuts for Team USA have been made and the 15 players that will be moving on to training camp (August 10-16) in New York are:
A few notes of the roster :
  • We all knew it was going to be guard heavy. But now seeing the 15 that moved on, it's really guard heavy. JaVale McGee picked up a little momentum especially because of the injuries and issues within the roster, but eventually didn't move on. Instead the roster is going with versatility and players that will be able to shuffle through positions. 
  • For instance, Jeff Green made the cut and Coach K as to why: "It's one of the reasons he's still one of the 15 is because of his versatility."
  • Right now, there are four point guards. So common sense says one likely won't be making the final roster. How you narrow down between those four, I don't know.
  • Coach K indicated Billups would be a player that would slide over to the 2-guard slot when other point guards come in. 
  • Team USA's center situation: Brook Lopez and Tyson Chandler. That's it. Coach K said, "We are concerned about the size."
  • Colangelo said Lopez was given the benefit of the doubt because of his case of mono. He said Lopez was selected for New York based on the idea that he would regain some form and get healthy. He mentioned that they didn't know Lopez came in ill, but admitted that his size probably helped him make this cut.
  • Coach K said players like Durant and Gay will play a lot of power forward.
  • Colangelo said as of right now, they have a sold eight or nine that will make the roster for Turkey. So that means there are three or four slots open to be battled for in New York.
These next fews weeks will the roster will likely get narrowed down to 12, though Colangelo noted that they might consider taking more than that to Turkey and then cutting from there. Only 12 can actually be eligible to play in Turkey, but Colangelo and Coach K indicated they may use all the time needed.

Posted on: July 26, 2010 12:28 pm
Edited on: July 26, 2010 9:33 pm
 

Breaking down the Team USA roster situation

Posted by Royce Young

Cuts are expected today for Team USA and Jerry Colangelo says right now he plans on taking 15 players to training camp. Currently though, there are 19 guys on the roster, so four appear to be getting the rest of the summer off.

So, the obvious question i s: Who's likely to be in and out? And not only that, who's looking good for the final roster as well?

The Lock

Kevin Durant - I'm going to write something here just because everybody else is. But we know this is KD's team and he did nothing Saturday night to make you think otherwise. Not only did he score at his typical high-efficiency clip (28 points on 10-17 shooting) but he also showed off some excellent passing skills. He's the only guy that's a confirmed lock at this point.

The Almost Locks

Derrick Rose - The competition is pretty fierce between Rose, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and Chauncey Billups. Deciding not only who makes the final cut will be tough, but who plays? Right now Rose has the upper hand because of reputation and also he's played well thus far in Vegas. But a poor week and he could easily slip down into the maybe section.

Chauncey Billups - Billups will likely make the final roster by default. He's the elder statesman of the team and with so many guys around 21 or 22, having an "OG" (Old Guy) as they're calling him, isn't a bad thing.

Rudy Gay - Other than Durant, Gay was the most impressive player Saturday. He netted 23 on 7-11 from the floor and really showcased his athleticism. Gay has an extremely good chance to not just make the final roster, but to have a big impact in Turkey as well.

Tyson Chandler - Coming in, Chandler was a total bubble guy. Now he's not only almost a guarantee, but probably the US's starting center. He's been more aggressive in the paint than anyone else and with Team USA lacking size, Chandler is a perfect piece to set up in the middle to defend the rim. Plus, with FIBA rules allowing players to knock the ball off the rim, Chandler could be an absolute force.

Rajon Rondo - The problem with Rondo is that he's one dimensional. Westbrook, Rose and Billups can conceivably slide over to the 2, but Rondo is locked into the point guard position. If David Lee doesn't get hurt and Amar'e Stoudemire were available, Rondo might be on the block. But as of today, it's looking good for Rondo.

The Looking Goods
Kevin Love - Love has a lot of value to this team because he can rebound, set screens and pass. Plus with the shortened 3-point line, he could be an absolute deadly pick-and-pop candidate. He's not a lock yet because he's hasn't performed especially well so far, but he's likely to make the at least the first cut.

Brook Lopez - Lopez is currently suffering from mono, so not only does that explain his lackluster performances, but it puts him in jeopardy of missing the games. The US needs his size badly and that's why he still has a great shot at the team.

Russell Westbrook - In the scrimmage, Westbrook was a menace. He's like a ball-hawking safety that's always looking to jump a route. He's the Ed Reed of the NBA. And because of that, he has a nice shot at the roster as a stopper to come in and frustrate someone like Ricky Rubio. Westbrook is a physical guard that beats up a lot of opponents. With the hand-checking rules, Westbrook could get downright nasty.

Stephen Curry - Team USA needs a shooter and nobody's stroke has been better. Well, other than Durant's. But Curry can play both the point and shooting guard, but his job will be to step on the floor and knock down treys.

Lamar Odom - Odom is a versatile power forward that can do it all for Team USA. Which is something it needs with the injuries and issues the team has had up front. However, Odom isn't a guarantee at this point because he admittedly came in to Vegas in poor shape and hasn't looked wonderful. But everyone knows what he's capable of so he'll likely be there.

Andre Iguodala - Iguodala may not make the final cut because of a logjam at the 2 and 3, but he's played well enough to at least get to camp. He's an above average wing defender and fits in well with Team USA's up-tempo approach.

The Maybes
Danny Granger - Granger has the unfavorable position of being behind Kevin Durant and Rudy Gay. However, Durant and Gay might be spending a healthy amount of time at the 4, meaning Granger could slip in and play small forward. He's shot the ball well and scored at a high clip thus far. He's competing basically against Andre Iguodala and right now, Iguodala's defense gives him a slight edge.

Gerald Wallace - Thus far, Wallace hasn't impressed much offensively. But really, he rarely does. He makes his mark by playing harder than everyone else, playing defense and just scoring tough buckets. There's a plethora of small forwards on the roster, but having an extra ace defender is never bad. Wallace may make this cut, but he'll be in a battle with Granger and Iguodala for the final 12.

Jeff Green - Green has been pretty meh so far. His 3-point shot has been inconsistent, he hasn't hit many jumpers and he hasn't rebounded exceptionally well. Yet because of the team's situation, he fits in well. He's versatile, can play multiple positions and can be a very solid offensive player. He might not see quality time, but he's worth having.

The Four on the Block
Eric Gordon - The US was looking for a shooter to stretch the zone defense international teams love to play a la Michael Redd in 2008 and basically, it was a competition between Gordon and Curry. And so far, it looks like Curry has the upper hand. Gordon has shot the ball well, but Curry's stroke is so pure that it's hard to picture it going flat under the pressure in Turkey. Gordon's is a beautiful thing, but a little more inconsistent.

Tyreke Evans - A tweaked ankle is all that's keeping Evans out. He was likely a lock for this roster, but because of a sore ankle he's missed most the practices plus the scrimmage. For shame.

JaVale McGee - McGee is a darkhorse just because he's  seven feet tall and is a center. Team USA needs that sort of thing badly. But right now, he's just too unpolished to go in front of someone like Kevin Love or Brook Lopez. McGee has shown some encouraging flashes of brilliance, but he's just not ready.

O.J. Mayo - A player like Mayo is going to undeservedly get left off this roster and it's just because of the supply of backcourt players. Team USA is ultra thin up front, so Coach K and company are more likely to take someone like Gerald Wallace or Jeff Green who can play on the front line than stack another guard onto the already full backcourt.


 
 
 
 
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