Argentina and Other Thoughts

Kurt —  August 31, 2007

I got injured the other day just watching Beckham play…..

• Well, if Argentina wants another shot at the USA, they should get it in a few days. But after watching the first meeting I’m not sure the second one will turn out any differently.

• News flash: Kobe likes big games.

He scored the first eight USA points in classic Kobe fashion — if you are not right up on him he thinks he’s open and hits the shot. He drained his first couple shots that way theen, two trips later (after Carmello’s three), Kobe gets the outlet pass but chooses not to get the ball ahead to Kidd who is pushing the pace, brings it up himself and takes a heat-check three from NBA distance — something else very Kobe but not something he needs to do with this team.

Still, Kobe was relentless against a defender that could not begin to handle him. He drove right past his man one trip down in the first quarter for a nice layup, then in the next half-court set he got a high pick from Howard, Kobe’s man remembered what happened the time before and went under the pick to prevent the drive, so Kobe stepped back and burried he three. He can be an instoppable offensive machine.

• Defensively, the USA seemed to step up the physicality throughout the tournament, really adjusting to the international game and banging a little.

They also changed up their looks on Argentina’s vaunted pick and roll — they switched at times and showed hard at other times (with the defending big stepping out on the ball handler until the defending guard can recover), and they did a pretty good job rotating behind the two defenders to pick up the guy rolling to the basket (the atheticism of the USA bigs also allows them to recover quickly). That said, I thought Argentina was a little sloppy in the first half setting the picks.

• Argentina has read the book on the USA, and early on they were getting back in transition and being patient on offense. When you play a team that can score like the USA, fewer possessions is better. But they didn’t take advantage of it. In the first half they were just missing some open looks from three and finished the half 1 of 12 from downtown (for the game 5 of 21). Think they miss Ginobli?

All those missess allowed the USA plenty of the fast break chances, where the USA thrives.

• The USA was having no such trouble hitting from three — 8 of 17 in the first half.That’s part of the reason the second half was a laugher.

• Sometimes when you’re on the one coast you don’t see as much of some players on the other coast, and when you do get to see then you remember how special they are. Jason Kidd has been that for me — man is he is fun to watch.

• I like Luis Scola. He showed a nice handle and hustle for first basket. Later he shows good footwork with a couple moves in the post, one time recognizing Tayshaun Prince was on him so he posted Prince up and abused him. He also drained some nice shots from the midrange. He is going to fit in great with Houston.

• Next up is the only game that really matters — if the USA beats Peurto Rico again they get their ticket punched to Bejing. If you want to read more on what the first meeting of these two teams was like, you should check out The Painted Area.

• Great trip in the Way-Back Machine to when the Lakers and Bulls met in the 1991 NBA Finals.

• Man, we all miss Chick. Things have not been the same without him. (Via Henry at True Hoop, who I swear reads every word written on the Web.)

Kurt

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34 responses to Argentina and Other Thoughts

  1. That point guard for Argentina was terrible. He must have had 8 turnovers himself.

    With Ginobli, Oberto, Nocioni playing along side of Delfino and Scola… that is a competitive squad.

    Team USA has this cocky mentality about them when they get ahead. They start trying a bunch of behind the back passes and alley oops. It’s not very smart.

    If Argentina has a full squad next year, don’t expect them to be push overs. I would almost bet on them in a close game.

    On the other hand, if Nash plays for Canada he will not make that squad look any better. They don’t have the depth to make a run.

  2. Scola did look really impressive, leaving my angry that the lakers didnt get him (whats new?). I’m hoping as a Laker fan that he turns out to be another player we’ve seen in this tournament who thrives in international competition and doesnt cut it in the nba (bautista, arroyo, parada, etc).
    lakertime.blogspot.com

  3. Nash played a lot for Canada a few years ago, but with his age and lingering back problems he can’t do that now and then push himself for a full NBA season, it’s too much wear and tear. Now, if Canada had a shot at the gold, maybe, but they are nowhere close.

    Spain and Argentina, at full force, are teams that could beat this USA team. Not will, but could. This tournament is not much of a test of that.

  4. I was wondering if this USA team had a Kobe gear and last night answered that. But I agree that this team doesn’t need that. All the more reason that I feel this team USA experience will reap benefits for the Lakers and Kobe’s oft criticized leadership skilss

  5. Kobe has been the best player on this version of Team USA and is the major reason for both the improved defense and the fact that this team consistently gets off to good starts (the 2006 squad got off to sluggish starts in most games in the FIBA World Championships).

    I have been writing detailed recaps of each Team USA game that you readers can check out here:

    http://20secondtimeout.blogspot.com/

  6. The two main problems Team USA will have in the Olympics will once again be defense against pick and rolls (with Melo playing the 4, defensive rotations are not there and it is easy for opposing big men to get the ball right under the basket) and scoring against European-style zone defenses. Kobe and Redd will definitely help with that and hopefully LeBron will continue to improve on his outside jumper, but what I don’t get I why Team USA, given its depth and athleticism, does not put more pressure on opposing guards. That way they could get more fast-break points and make it more difficult for opponents to run the pick and roll. Then again, all that talent should be more than enough to win the gold against any team.

  7. Appreciate the link, Kurt.

    As a non-Lakers fan, I’m curious if you guys are worried that Kobe having a great time playing for Team USA will affect his mood when he gets to training camp. My co-writer (who goes by chopperdave in these parts) and I have a running joke that he’s going to punch Sasha in the face on the first day.

  8. I think Kobe will be in much better spirits and be a better teacher this year. He realizes that the USA team is a collection of the best and no one NBA team could exist like that for a long season.

    Besides, he is getting practice working as a part of a team and not being the entire show. I think that is all for the good.

    Man I love to think about his defense this year – yikes!!

  9. I don’t know. Maybe, we should have pulled the trigger on the Kidd trade. Kidd and Kobe are the difference on this team. I would venture to say that the they could be one of the best backcourt combos ever. You have two great defenders and two options to run the offense through. No Kobe is not a playmaker like Nash and that has been the criticism of Kobe, he doesn’t make his teammates better like Nash does. However, he is most likely the best playmaker in the leage at the 2 guard position (Im not sold on D Wade). So a backcourt with hall of fame 1 and 2 guards could confuse even the best defenses. I think the trade was Bynum and Kwame for Kidd. Together, they would make their teammates better and would surpass Nash in doing so. I could have lived with going small:

    PG: Kidd/Farmar/Critt
    SG: Kobe/Saha
    SF: Luke/Evans/Vlad
    PF: Odom/Cook
    C: Mihm/Turiaf

  10. For my part I’m a little worried that once the US makes it’s surge and runs out to a 20-30 point lead it essentialy plays even for the rest of the game. The reserves don’t blow anybody away and esp noteworthy is last nite Coach K put his starters back in to start 4Q and they basically tied the Argentinian reserves for the several minutes they were in the game. When the third string Argentinians hold their own w/the starting five of the US I get a little concerned.

    My opinions so far:
    Carmelo can’t defend good PFs.
    This yeam cannot go thru the Olympics w/out adding another big. Who knew Chris Bosh would be so valuable? Howard,Bosh,Carmelo,Kobe and Kidd should be the starting 5 when they play Argentina and the other big teams in the Olympics.
    Carmelo and Kobe are the only players who seem to know how to use screens set by big men to get open. Carmelo in particular uses screens to deadly effect-and he seems to be the only non-big who moves w/out the ball. All too often everybody else runs to a spot and stays there until they get the ball.
    The US fast break is better than advertised.
    Other teams will use the hack-a-Shaq defence on US bigs when they get the ball near the basket.
    The US 1/2 court offense is only as good as Jason Kidd. If I were a team facing the US I’d be very tempted to try a box and 1,w/my best defender guarding Kidd. Keep Kidd somewhat contained and the US 1/2 court O fizzles out as LeBron,Kobe and Carmelo try to make hi-light passes,not simple effective passes.
    They still can’t feed the bigs on the low post w/any semblance of success.
    I have to disagree somewhat w/Kurt. Mike Miller has done everything better than Redd-except shoot the ball. Miller has rebounded better,defended better,passed better and was even used to run the offense. He just can’t make a shot-and if that is what the roster spot calls for-and it will once Wade and Bosh return next yr,then I agree Mike is gonna be given the home version.
    Wade’s mid-range game and skill in using Haslem for picks will work very well w/this team. What Carmelo is doing along the baseline I see Wade doing around the Key.
    Looking to the Olympics,there are going to be some tough and contraversial choices made-if everyone is healthy. I think they have to add a fourth big-not simply replace Chandler w/Bosh,so bye-bye a shooter(Miller),and Wade is going to replace who? Redd-no freakin’ way after being ripped for not having a shooter last yr. Prince-and have no defensive specialist? Billups? Williams?
    Here’s what I think the team will look like:
    Starters-Kidd,Kobe,Carmelo,Bosh,Howard.
    2nd Unit-Williams,Wade,LeBron,Prince/Battier,Stoudemire.
    Specialist reserves-Redd/Miller,Chandler.
    Battier might get the nod for his 3pt shooting over Prince’s better athleticism.
    Redd/Miller has Redd for now,but if Miller shoots lights out in camp next yr,his better all around game might get him the nod.
    Altho Billups is a vet that Coach K likes and can be pressed into 2guard role,I think Williams speed and quickness will be needed to defend against other fast PGs.,and is better suited for the fast-breaking abilities of second unit.

  11. Too bad about your Fighting Irish. I wish I could say my Cardinal looked much better.

  12. 10. I agree there are a lot of concerns about Team USA heading into next summer, but I think it’s safe to say this year’s version looked better than last year’s. Improvement year to year matters, as does bringing many of these same guys back next summer. And I agree, we’ll need Bosh in China.

  13. 11. I thought the Irish would struggle some, but not that much. That said, this is a year where I just want to see improvement week to week. Next year and especially the year after are the years the Irish should be dangerous.

    I only saw parts of the Stanford/UCLA game, but right now it just looked like the Bruins have more athletes. Hopefully Jim can get the ship righted up there and make them a threat again. Well, at least you have the Lopez brothers to look forward to.

  14. The rematch is tonight and something tells me that even though both teams have already clinched Olympic berths, Team USA is going to take this one pretty seriously…

  15. It does seem a little petty to be complaining when Team USA is just romping thru the competition. But I wish they’d show more of a killer instinct when they get a team down and just bury them instead of going into trying for hi-light plays.
    I have this dreadful image of Team USA getting some good team down 25pts at half and going into cruise control while the other team plays desperate and suddenly starts making a ton of 3s and gets back into the game.
    I guess I’m an Ugly American who wants to see someone on this team do something like Barkley elbowing the Angolan-making the statement that Team USA is out for total domination.

    The more I see of Scola the more excited I get about “my” Rockets. I can just see him and T-Mac wearing teams out w/screen/rolls while Yao cuts across lane. The league would be in trouble if Houston had a catch and release shooter who could curl around a Yao screen while Scola/McGrady had the ball in high post.

  16. Nice job fixing up the blog. It looks great.

    Thanks.

  17. Stephen, how does Radmanovic fit your bill of this shooter?

  18. … cont 16. He could be regarded as your “poor man’s Peja”

  19. Carter, is it working better in IE, because it looks a little worse in Firefox right now. But thanks, trying to get a few things changed. Between BBQs.

  20. WarrenWeeLim,
    If Radmanovic was truly healthy and focused,he’d fit the role,but if he was that,why’d the Lakers want to move him? I’d much rather the Rockets found a way to get Turkoglu from Orlando.(More to the point,why would the Lakers want any of the junk the Rockets would have to offer? Battier was the new GM’s first big trade-he pushed for it before he was GM-so he’s not going anywhere-something the Rox told his agent and Chinese marketeers. That leaves Mike James as an equivalent contract.Unless Lakers then move one of the young PGs,you’d end up w/4 PGs.Hardly likely. That leaves Sura and one of the following-Butler,Snyder,Reed or Head. Butler’s not going anywhere til another Backup for Yao is signed,Snyder couldn’t learn JVG’s offense-I can just imagine him trying to learn the Triangle,Reed is Reed and Head may be the kind of player Phil likes at PG-but see James comments. Further the Rockets have blown past the tax threshold and don’t want to increase salary if they can help it.)
    Radmanovic has got to show he can reliably bury the outside shot before any team would want to trade for his contract. But if he can prove that he can bury the 3 and occassionaly drive to hoop,he’d be filling a crucial hole in the Lakers roster.
    I think the best way to unload RadMan is trade him to Cavs for Donyell Marshall.Marshall wants out of Cleveland,may still be able to hit the 3 and his contract expires after next season.(Its what I want Rockets to do w/James BTW.)

  21. On a more Lakerish note,I’d suggest somebody sit Bynum-and Phil-down and show him tapes of how Dwight kept setting picks for Kobe,resulting in open looks or driving lanes for Kobe and a bunch of return dunks for Dwight off Kobe passes. My advice to Bynum,bulk up a bit and practice stting picks and then quickly moving to the basket.
    At the beginning of the Tournament Kobe seemed a little bit shocked when Dwight would come out and set picks for him. As the games progressed Kobe saw how many great options it gave him and he started exploiting them-if defenders sag,turn corner and pull up for open jumper;if they tried to jump it,blow on past thru now open lane;if help defense arrives on a drive reward the big w/a pass for an easy dunk.
    In a way it’s too bad for Laker fans Dwight signed his extension. Watching the games I thought Kobe and Dwight were developing a very nice chemistry and could be extremely powerful together.(It was suprising how many of bench shots had Kobe and Dwight seated next to each other and how often they were laughing.)

  22. Kurt,

    Looks perfect for me on IE. First time in a while everything fit on the page.

    I can’t speak for Firefox though. Not sure what it looks like using any other browser.

    Thanks.

  23. I’m about to see Portugal-Spain live on Eurobasket and my team will be trashed (Xavier will be making jokes about this game for a long time).

    Nevertheless, you guys should see the games in Europe right now, as the main threats to the USA team are based in Europe. You guys should see João Gomes (who was the best prospect NOT to be drafted). The kid has some serious skill but no basketball IQ…

    Main threats to the US are Spain and Greece, not Argentina… but you’ll see it…

    Off-topic question: Carmelo said that he prefers playing FIBA basketball over playing NBA basketball… What do you think about that?

  24. 13) We continue to not be able to tackle anyone. I don’t know if Harbaugh can do anything to help that. But the fact that we actually got 2 touchdowns against UCLA might be seen as a sign of improvement. And NCAA basketball can’t get here soon enough for me. The Lopezes should be awesome, but the Love-to-Collison fastbreak will be terrifying.

    15) I think the Scola/Francis additions definitely have the potential to push them from second-tier threat to a legitimate first-tier contender. A scary team to be sure.

    23) Do you think Carmelo’s quote was more about FIBA rules allowing him to exploit his strengths or the national team allowing him to play with the likes of Kidd, Kobe, et al.? I guess I could see either. His versatility really shines in this format, but it also has to be a thrill to play in such a fun system. This has to be the happiest Kobe’s been in years. Reading Chauncey’s quote:
    http://chicagosports.chicagotribune.com/sports/basketball/bulls/cs-070902smith,1,5523716.column?coll=cs-bulls-headlines
    that some of the guys are like “‘Oh man, it’s back to reality.'” and you have to think he’s referring to Kobe.

  25. I believe Carmelo was referring more to FIBA refs allowing more physical play-he could use his body more and push-off to get open.

    Maybe instead of Kobe coming back moping,perhaps he will come back w/it finally sinking in that if he plays team basketball the Lakers will be better for it and that playing tough D will get his teammates doing the same and that passing to open teammates opens up the court.

    ChopperDave,I agree Scola looks like he has the nastiness the Rockets desperately need and the skillset Adelman looks for in a PF. But I still can’t think of one good reason for signing Francis. They had their PG rotation set-Alston,James off bench for scoring and the rookie who was to to brought along for a couple of yrs and would be ready just when James’ contract would be in it’s last yr. Francis doesn’t do anything James or Brooks doesn’t do except rebound-and if you’re depending on your PGs to rebound your team has problems. Even if the Rockets wanted to trade Alston it would have made more sense to get a pass-first vet who could settle the team when oppsing teams made runs.(Which might be Fisher’s best value to Lakers.) Francis gives them 3 dribble around,shoot first PGs,he’s not a catch and shoot guy and he’s been traded away from 3 teams for not being able to run an offense where he has to set up others. The only thing I can think of is his good friend Yao asked Management if they would sign his “brother”. While so many state it was a good move signing him,I think it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

  26. Stephen (25) I completely agree with you about Francis. I’m still scratching my head about that signing. If Houston can figure out the PG problem (how many do they have under contract?), and with the addition of Scola I think they are going to be contenders either this year or next.

  27. Francis played pretty well with Yao his first time around in Houston. I can see him coming close to the player he was a few years back.

    Sometimes the level a player competes at has to do with how happy they are in a given situation. I believe he’s going to be very happy playing with this group.

  28. This is an interesting debate/question
    Dream Team still the best ever … or is it?

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/columns/story?columnist=sheridan_chris&id=3002943

    Its hard to bet against Magic, Bird, Jordan, Barkley, Robinson, Pippen. So I would have to go with teh 92 dream team over the current one for two reasons; size and veteran savvy.

  29. the other Stephen September 4, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    i haven’t been able to watch Kobe on a regular basis for three years because of college out of state..

  30. ryan,

    That Dream Team played against foreign teams that were nowhere near as good as what this USA team will face in Bejing. If Team USA can win the gold and in a fashion similar to what they did in this tourney I would say they are the best team we’ve sent.

    I was extremely impressed with the chemistry of this team. It’s going to take that and playing a full 40 minutes at a high level to win gold in 08′.

  31. drew boy I agree a comparison can not really be made, because the level of competition is not close, but in a head to head match up between the 92 team and this years team… This years team is probably quicker because they are younger than the 92 team but the 92 team was bigger with Robinson and Ewing. A small ball line up of Magic Jordan Barkley, Bird is hard to beat (actually that line up is not that small). But as you say if they can dominate the olympics the way they did the Americas tournament they I would have to give it to this years team.

  32. the other Stephen September 4, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    Perhaps the only way to settle the Dream Team vs Team USA question is to play them head to head on NBA Live 2007 or NBA 2k7 =).

  33. Ryan(26)
    The Rockets have the following PGs on their roster:
    Alston,Brooks(R),Francis,James,Lucas,Sura(injured,waiting to buy out part of contract for cap relief) and Luther Head as a combo,who was back-up PG last yr.
    Plus 3 PFs officially shorter than 6’8″.
    Outside of McGrady and Yao,the Rockets are always playing small ball!
    Maybe they can box a bunch up and swap for s big shooter.

  34. the other Stephen September 4, 2007 at 8:19 pm

    32. yeah, seriously. instead of joining everyone in voicing their puzzlement with the rockets’ lineup, i would like to maintain that the rockets have a lot of good* guard pieces that could bring in trades that have more potential to benefit the rockets in return than they would the other team involved. given, of course, that someone out there is willing to take them, strings attached and all.