Team USA and Other Thoughts

Kurt —  August 2, 2008

A few thoughts after watching the USA v. Lithuania game, plus some other stuff.

• We still don’t know how this USA team will fare against a team that can maintain ball control against their aggressive defense — but the question really is how many teams are going to be able to do that? In this game the USA realized that Lithuania had one guy who is really a good ball handler, former Pacer and Warrior (and Terrapin) Sarunas Jasikevicius. They stuck Kobe on him to take the ball out of his hands, and with that the turnovers were flowing.

• All the USA wing defenders extended their defense way out beyond the three-point line. This made it hard for Lithuania to get into the pick and roll, but when they didn’t turn the ball over (when they settled down in the second quarter) Lithuania was able to get the ball inside and score.

• Lithuania did get into the pick and roll, in the first quarter the USA was generally aggressive and switching on defesnse. That left some mismatches big on small inside that another team may be able to exploit if they have the ball handlers. As the game wore on Lithuania was able to exploit this some with some baskets on good rolls to the basket. The USA had some confusion. It’s a kink the team still needs to work out.

• In transition team USA’s ball movement is fantastic. And fun to watch.

• D. Wade played some nice help defense.

• Lithuania really should wear the old Grateful Dead jerseys again.

• In previous Olympics and international competitions, team USA struggled against a zone. Not so far with this group — Howard is a good presence in the soft underbelly of the zone, Wade a d LeBron can drive into the lane, Kobe and Redd will just shoot over the top of it. Both are willing to shoot the NBA three, nearly three feet beyond the international arc, and defenders are just slow to come that far out.

• Against the second USA unit, where Chris Bosh is the center, the USA is soft inside. That may come back to bite them against a deeper team (Spain, for example).

Studies have shown that guys who played in the Olympics/World Championships are not any more likely to be injured the following season (although the sample size is pretty small). I think it will be interesting to see this year — if I were a Cleveland fan I wouldn’t be that worried about LeBron, but Kidd in Dallas is another matter. Will he be a little more worn down and not bounce back as fast? That matters as dependant as Dallas will be on Kidd to contend.

• For the Lakers, I’m not that worried about Kobe after the Olympics. He takes amazing care of himself, plus he will get a little down time due to the hand surgery after the games.

Pau Gasol on the other hand, that has me a little concerned. Remember, he got a broken bone in his foot two years ago in the World Championships, missed the first few months of the season and was never quite right that year. That was a fluke accident, but flukes happen, particularly in the paint where bodies bang around.

• It’s been discussed in the comments here and everywhere else, but here are my two cents: Ron Artest makes Houston a top title contender — on paper. If Yao Ming can have a healthy season after the Olympics, if McGrady can stay healthy, if Artest can blend in comfortably as a third offensive option and not dominate the ball in crunch time, they can be contenders. That may be a lot to ask, but it is far from impossible. Much like Portland, Houston is a team that could be very good or very disappointing come February and March. By then we’ll have an idea if they are contenders or not.

• If you travel with your laptop, there are things you should know.

Kurt

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50 responses to Team USA and Other Thoughts

  1. warren…warren…wake up…there are no comments yet, so I’ll do this one for you.
    signed,
    warren wee lim

    ps; do you guys tracktor traylor will be a member of the team, and do you think he’ll be effective if he is?
    chris h

  2. any comments on the signing of Dwayne Mitchell?

  3. I don’t know if anyone linked to this post already but this is a really entertaining post about the Lakers from Blazers Edge:

    http://www.blazersedge.com/2008/8/1/585038/how-much-do-you-hate-em

  4. Mitchell was on the the Lakers summer league team in Vegas and averaged 20 ppg for Iowa in the D-League last year. He is simply a camp invite and will not be on the roster come the start of the season. He is camp fodder.

  5. the other Stephen August 2, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    oh. hoopla and hooray for useless fodder then.

  6. “That was a fluke accident, but flukes happen, particularly in the paint where bodies bang around. ”

    How well we know…

  7. j. d. hastings August 2, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    The Artest trade is one of these transactions where I think it’s a good move but it doesn’t concern me. The Rockets get another player to step in if TMac or Yao get injured. In theory, he strengthens their already great defense and gives them another option in general.

    In practice though, putting Artest and TMac on the floor together relegates Battier to the bench unless Artest plays PF (which I’ve heard might be the plan). I’d love to hear some of the wonks on here analyze the reletive defensive capabilities of Artest v. Battier. Artest has the reputation, but I tend to think of Battier as a better all around defender because of his team d and he’s less likely to gamble. Battier knows his role and thrives in it. The opposite of Artest.

    The same can be said on Offense. He definitely won’t increase the flow of their offense. If he is playing PF, does that work to his strengths? He can shoot from the perimeter, which is good, but will his strength inside be negated by his size?

    I definitely don’t think they’ll be worse, but I don’t think they’ll be as much better as you’d expect given that they acquired a talented player for relatively little. I’d still expect them to compete for that 3-5 seed and maybe get to the conf. finals if they get a favorable bracket.

  8. Speaking of running,I don’t think I’ve seen it mentioned too much here,but the Lakers have the potential to really run w/their “second” unit. Gasol or Bynum can get down the court pretty well for bigs and can finish,Lamar’s excellent,Ariza is fast and can finish,Farmars not bad when he’s forcing the tempo with the team and Sasha or Rad can hit the trailing spot-up 3.(And a certain #24 isn’t too shabby on the fast break.)
    Last yr Phil wanted the second unit to run because he wasn’t too sure they could run the Triangle effectively. This yr he may want to run more as a tactical option of breaking open a game.(1Q establish the offense,2Q up the pace,3Q go for the knock-out run.)

  9. Forget basketball. Did anyone read the last line in Kurt’s post?

    “If you travel with your laptop, there are things you should know.”

    Has anyone bothered to read the article? Damn! I hope Sen. Feingold pushes through legislation to stop this outrage. I don’t think our ancestors fought and died for this country so that we could act like scared sheep and throw our freedoms away by letting the government steal them, and sometimes even encouraging them to do so!

    As Ben Franklin said:
    “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety”.

  10. farmar should study game tapes of Tony Parker, watch and learn what he does cause he could have similar skill sets. nice teardrop, quick first step, go to the hole with a bit of reckless abandon.
    no thoughts on trackor traylor eh?

  11. 7. While I opposed an Artest trade for the Lakers, I get why the Rockets did it. Unlike the Lakers, they were not a Finals team, they needed something, so Artest makes more sense as a gamble for them. If it doesn’t work, then they are right back where they are now, if it does work they are brilliant. The Lakers were potentially messing with a fair measure of success already bolstered by the return of Bynum, they didn’t need the rist.

    10. I’ve been meaning to write this for a while: in college Farmar had the prettiest tear drop shot in the lane, and he’s gotten away from that. Parker does it to perfection. I’d love to see Jordan use that more again.

    As for Tractor Traylor, I said in the comments I liked what I saw in summer league. Give him a camp invite (which it sounds like they are doing) and let’s see. It could be a good fit.

  12. 9. I couldn’t agree more. I don’t have really anything to hide on my laptop, but the idea of them randomly seizing it on customs and delaying me for some time with the possibility of me not getting it back is quite a bother.

    There’s a bit of logic behind it, but seriously… do they really think they can find some secret Al-Queda attack plan on a random laptop they randomly confiscate?

  13. The problem with olympic play is that it only takes one bad game to take you out of the medals.

    Although I honestly believe the USA will win gold, I must say that the first team who’s able to get pass that pressure on the ball-handler, will have a good chance at winning the game (I’m talking about Spain, Argentina, Lithuania, Greece and Croatia). Often, american teams try to rotate 10 players with more or less same number of minutes to each, which is their downfall in international play. Do you think Wade and a few others are willing to play only 10 minutes when the knock-out stage comes? If everyone is willing to just play their role, then I have no doubts that USA will win it all…

    Guess we’ll have to wait and see…

    NOTE: Sorry guys, rooting for the european teams in this thing ;)

  14. Warren “Addendum” Lim August 3, 2008 at 7:00 am

    Chris my man… if this team plays, I could not comment for a week and it won’t matter.

  15. Warren “Addendum” Lim August 3, 2008 at 7:07 am

    DrRay from the last post…

    I think 95% of those who believed Gasol will be a Laker by season’s end somehow had either Bynum or Odom going the other way. I bet no one would and could have imagined that we got him WITHOUT parting with both.

    As for Lamar, our favorite guinea pig, the Lakers did not realize that for some reason or another, acquiring Gasol meant losing Lamar. Take this year for instance. Everyone who is financially concerned about the Lakers payroll is screaming for Mitch to do something… anything. Guess who is on the block in this regard.

    Again, my advocacy is simple and its been said many times. If we are so concerned with the Laker payroll, which we can’t help but be, Lamar has to go (this including Bynum’s supposed extension considered) but it has to go in such fashion that we “undo” what we tied up in the trade for Pau.

    The proposal includes:

    1. Taking back a 7-10m expiring contract (whom we could use or buy out) and not expect to sign next year.
    2. A young talent, preferably a rookie or sophie
    3. A possible pick (1st would be nice)
    4. A veteran “throw-in” that would be nice to add to our depth.

    With this in mind, I know of 2 teams that might be willing to do it with us: Chicago and Cleveland. How its done is the speculative part.

  16. Warren “Addendum” Lim August 3, 2008 at 7:14 am

    Kurt, sorry for the grandslam post but I’m not here too often coz Sim Basketball is taking too much of my time.

    Somewhere after Team USA wins the gold, can we talk bout Euro-related things that COULD affect the 2010/2011 CBA? I think it intrigues to a much-wider group of $.02 contributors.

    As a teaser, sort of how Ben Gordon can bolt the NBA for a year or two and come back as a free agent without the Bulls hounding his ears for a lowball. It has to include a) possible raising of the tax threshold b) another exception to be named and used c) more restrictions to members of the union going abroad to Greece or Italy d) possible removal of the cap and setting of the hard cap e) a lot more else.

    Thanks. It would be interesting.

  17. Are the USA practice games available on the net or the boob tube?

  18. Warren, the Bulls have rights to Ben Gordon for one more year. Even if he goes overseas and plays he will still be a restricted free agent when/if he comes back to the NBA. The only way he wouldn’t be a restricted free agent is if the Bulls renounce their rights to him in order to free up cap space.

    So assuming he goes to Europe at all, he’ll have two choices
    1) Stay in Europe until the Bulls renounce him
    2) Come back to the NBA as a restricted free agent.

  19. Only caught the 3Q against Russia. Ugh.
    If this team is really seeking redemption,trying to prove the USA is stilll the best,they should be trying to send a message by crushing these exhibition teams,not 1/2-a**ing it and mailing it in. It’s great that Kobe took over and held the Russians at bay,but he shouldn’t have needed to.
    Don’t know if it’s the water,the system,or it’s not “his” team,but Paul looked very mediocre,constantly getting burned on D,and wasting too much time dribbling around. Wiiams looked much better running the team.

    Artest does 4 things for the Rockets.
    1)He gives them a playmaker when McGrady is on the bench. He can bull his way to his own shot at any time and in the low post he will pass it out to open shooters.
    2)When teams go small he becomes a credible PF. Increasing numbers of teams are going small w/their reserves and Artest/Battier give the Rockets a good small line-up. Shane really doesn’t rebound well,he boxes out so the rebounders only have to duel 1-on-1. This plays into Artest’s strength as a player who chases rebounds. The Rockets can’t fixate on Utah. Ron gives a defensive option/offensive problem for Dirk,West,Aldridge and Lamar. Al of whom are agile,skilled 4s who can out-quick any Rocket big.
    3)He gives the Rockets a low-post option when Yao is not on the court.
    4)He’s a little crazy. Teams won’t knock around McGrady and Yao as much for fear of what retaliation Ron might seek.

    W/out knowing more than I know,I wouldn’t have brought Ron in.(It’s very possible the medical reports the team is getting from China on Yao are causing some concern. If they have to imit Yao’s minutes as some have speculated,then I can see why they went after Ron. Me,I would have gone after Miller,Chidress hard.)

  20. Plan9FOS,
    I read the article when Kurt first put it out there. I totally agree. The average citizen seems to be willing to trade a bit more freedom for apparent safety. That is one assumption for constantly instilling fear in a people – currently a frequent political technique. This has been going on for quite a while now and one day people are going to wake up and see they are living in a country more like China than the USA. We may still have a lot of things, but we won’t be able to decide nearly as much for ourselves.

    True democracy means living with a fair amount of chaos and risk. This is one price for being free.

  21. Ron Artest and Marcus Camby have both been traded to teams that were in the right place at the right time. I’ve been playing the role of an LA Lurker, looking for similar Laker opportunities. The progression–at least the one in my mind–not only has not gelled, but may not come together at all.

    The Laker team has struggled through free agency with limited objectives, losing one player, while other teams have improved themselves. This, in turn, has made me more worried about chemistry related to Bynum/Gasol and the possible move of Lamar to the small forward slot. This may only be a problem in my mind, since Phil has many possibilities for putting a team together, but it bears on the Lakers impending financial crisis for next year.

    Other teams have different ghosts and goblins. I promise to keep on lurking.

  22. @busterjonez , well, if you had a AT&T U-VERSE subscription (fiber optic network) they offer a ‘AT&T Team USA’ option in the menu choices, there are six short clips of Team USA Basketball available now.

  23. The games so far have been broadcast on ESPN2. Tuesday’s game is at 5:00am PST and is the last before the Olympics start.

  24. kobe will be a decisive factor in the usa campaign as with the lakers…yes, that’s how much credit i give him as part of the starting 5 as demonstrated against lithuania and russia. his presence is just that big.

    re: artest, i agree that he has to play pf or relegate battier to the bench. i don’t know if they plan to use tmac at guard to harass the best scorer, can that be done? if so, artest can take sf and scola at pf. i wonder how this matches up with the lakers but it looks promising. all the more important for lamar to develop a midrange shot consistent so that the likes of artest don’t sag off and double our guards. lamar should also finish better around the rim. some strengthening is in order. i also agree that the trade was lopsided, it was really a giveaway that i hope sacramento regrets (coz it was just too easy or is that how much they wanted artest out…but then, why go for such a deal?) and i agree that houston is a contender but one that does not concern me much not unless their bench anchored on francis (is he still playing?) and battier, head et al can outplay our combo.

    to match that, we need tough bigs. maybe sign the mbenga-type and if that traylor experiment makes sense, get him for cheap. there are still good f.a.s available there. GO LAKERS!

  25. 19. Stephen, the third quarter against Russia was the worst quarter the USA has played in the run up, so what you saw was not totally representative. That said, Russia did a great job of not turning the ball over, controlling the tempo and taking the USA out of its desired game. The USA still got the win because of better defense than they have played in the past and better one-on-one players (the basis of the entire USA halfcourt, they spread the floor drive and look for shooters, thinking you can’t match the talent level).

    Come the Olympics, the USA is going to have to win a couple games just like that to earn the gold. Spain won’t be turning the ball over much with Calderon at the point. Greece won’t. Argentina won’t. Bottom line, the USA needs to take the lessons of defense and ball movement in the half court offense away from this game, and improve in these areas, if they are to win.

  26. Not really worried about the Olypmic team, except that in the real thing, ONE game is all that it takes to mess things up for good. Given that we have a lot of players who really have not had too much win-or-go-home experiences game after game after game, that may be to our disadvantage and a potential point of concern.

    And as important as size is…

    In my playground experiences, 5 good guards can easily defeat a team with average players in each position. I’m sure that’s not the case in pro level ball, but if we’re talking about 5 of the BEST guards in the world, I’m not so sure if there’s going to be a big difference.

    Paul – Wade – Kobe – LeBron – Melo?

    Way small, and probably won’t be able to stop much other than an occasional weakside block, but I really don’t see them having too much trouble scoring.

    Besides, it’s not like we don’t have any bigs… i just don’t buy into the ‘too small to compete’ argument.

  27. Didn’t see the 2nd half of the Russia game, but in the first half Russia did a great job of not turning the ball over a lot. This prevented the US from getting out into the open court, where they are just too athletic and good for anyone to hope to stop. I can see the team struggling against teams with a good PG. As Kurt mentioned, Spain, Greece, and Argentina are not going to turn the ball over a lot. Depending on how healthy Manu is, Spain probably will be the toughest team for the US. Calderon is a good PG, and will be able to match up pretty well with the pressure defense. They also have size and depth in the front court with the Gasol brothers. I think its good that the US gets to play Spain before the medal round, because they will get a feel for them.

  28. What is interesting to see is that when the opposing team commits to a zone, it seems that CP3 and Deron Williams are actually better options at the point than JKidd.

    The most enjoyable aspect of team USA seems to be the development of the backup point position – Deron and CP3 have progressed real well and have shown a knack for breaking down a zone off the dribble (not an easy accomplishment at all). I’ve seen CP3 break down the 2-3 zone off a high pick, dribble between the top two defenders or hit backdoor screens/pop outs quite consistently. Deron has been able to muscle into the belly of the zone create contact and show that his size and court vision puts him at the top of the depth chart vs. the zone as he has hybrid qualities that both JKidd and CP3 possess.

    It will be interesting to see what line-up (more specifically, the point guard position) is used in the 4th quarter during the medal rounds….

  29. Kurt,
    I watched the rerun Sunday. Before that I had an tirade against Team NIke-excuse me,Team USA-that I wanted to vent with,but you are right,the 3Q was just a real flop. But there can be no valid comparison between this team and the origina Dream Team. This team lacks a collective killer instinct. Last yr and this,the team will get a 15-20pt lead and basically maintain it the rest of the way.

    The “team” is built on a faulty foundation. You do not take the best offensive player in the world and decide to make him your top defender and focus the offence on someone else. This is comparable to sending an Olympic team w/Jordan,Drexler and Houston and deciding Jordan is going to defend and Houston is going to get the shots.
    If Team USA were serious about sending out a team and not another collection of All-Star scoring types,Prince/Marion/Artest/Bowen would be starting and LeBron would be the Sixth Man.

  30. Stephen,
    “This team lacks a collective killer instinct”

    I disagree – the big difference between the two teams is the level of competition.

  31. Draft express has a breakdown of the teams for olympics. Good read if you are interested in getting a scouting report on the different teams.

    http://www.draftexpress.com/article/2008-Olympic-Power-Ranking-2977/

  32. 31. That is a good read. And expect something like that here in the next couple of days, but from a somewhat different source (not me).

  33. The BIG DIFFERENCE between this Team USA and the versions which took the court (unsuccessfully?) in 2002, 2004 and 2006 is … KOBE BRYANT. Period.

    Kurt, I can either (i) ‘cut & paste’ my rationale here (for all to read themselves); or, (ii) just provide a link to my blog … whichever YOU prefer [just let me know :-) ].

    As, is … Readers who are interested in my take on Team USA can always click on my name (in yellow).

  34. 33. Khandor, thanks for asking, most people don’t bother and just post a link. Feel free to post a link, it may help drive some traffic your way, but either way is fine by me.

  35. pierce was pulled over by Officer Cassell in Vegas, but they let him go, no arrest.
    I thought it was funny though, office Cassell..
    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news?slug=ap-celtics-piercehandcuffed&prov=ap&type=lgns

  36. The year Pau was injured he actually had his best season. 21, 10, and 2.

  37. Kurt,

    Thanks. :-)

    Added you to my blogroll, as well.

    =====================

    For those with an interest …

    http://khandorssportsblog.wordpress.com/2008/08/04/upside-and-motor-team-usa-blogger-roundtable/

  38. who would be better to replace Ronnie as a back up big…
    Tractor Traylor
    or
    Elton brown
    ????????
    this from hoopsworld
    Elton Brown (unrestricted): Elton dominated the Vegas summer league for Denver, and has been one of the top rebounders in both the D-League and overseas for the past two seasons. The kid has tremendous upside, and is not a bad person either, a real steal for a team looking for a proven product.

  39. Plan9FOS, Craig W, Kurt…

    The laptop article is seriously disturbing. I’ve known for several years that we do NOT live in the land of the free. This is the land of the regulated. If you want to experience true freedom, head to South America.

    I work as a technical consultant and if they take my laptop, I’m potentially SOL by losing any work that I did in between backups…not to mention I can kiss the unit goodbye.

    I already hate TSA going through my luggage. One thing about me is that I routinely go on international expedition mountaineering trips….so I make it a point to put all of my dirty 3 week old underwear and socks I have worn for 7 days at a time and all the sweaty unlaundered clothes…at the top of my luggage. If they want to go through my stuff, they have to go through my s*** and deal with the nasty stench….literally

    I totally agree with…

    “He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.”

    …paraphrased from ” “Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power.” – Poor Richard’s Almanac

  40. Back to basketball…

    anyone notice that Kobe got an inch shorter?

    http://sports.yahoo.com/olympics/beijing/usa/kobe+bryant/220296

  41. IMO … it would be a mistake for the Lakers to pick up a Clydesdale [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clydesdale_(breed)] to replace a player with the attributes of Ronny Turiaf.

    Phil Jackson’s Lakers are a Thoroughbred Team and, as such, need to have Thoroughbred [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thoroughbred] players … even as their Back-ups and Reserves.

    Please Note: Before anyone gets the wrong idea … i.e. ‘Thoroughbred Athletes’ the world over are those with TOP NOTCH Agility, Power & Coordination. :-)

  42. I, too, am deeply disturbed my the loss of freedom associated with the US Government’s ‘right’ to seize a laptop without proper justification.

    That said:

    re: “If you want to experience true freedom, head to South America.”

    You mean ‘true freedom’ … as in Chile & Peru?

    You have got to be kidding, right? :-)

  43. The thing about the laptop article is that it applies to more than laptops – ipods, flash drives, digital cameras – anything that could be considered a hard drive. It is really a poorly written (or craftily written) piece of legislation. With our current Supreme Court we can be pretty well assured it will pass their muster, thus insuring the government can pretty much take a lot of stuff away if they feel so inclined – like you p*ss some customs person off.

  44. Stephen,

    Exhelodrvr is right. The teams now versus in ’92 were 10 times better. It’s not a fair comparison. You might think they lack “killer instinct,” but they held the reigning Euro champs to 68 points.

    We still have not seen the best of this team, and I think that’s a good thing. I don’t expect to see the All-Star game type of play in the big games, but actual straight up tough team ball. Right now, they are settling in, in a good way. Getting comfortable with each other. I like seeing them only score 89 and still win by 21.

  45. (37) Chris h,

    Elton Brown has tried out for the Lakers before. See great three part story by Matt in Pickaxe and Roll (Denver Site).

    Best,

    Ray

  46. New post up, an Olympics scouting report.

  47. “…like you p*ss some customs person off”

    eh, they don’t get pissed off….it’s just enough to disgust/gross them out a little :-) …like when you get a whiff of bad gas from the guy next to you and he’s proud of it.

    Did anyone notice that Kobe got an inch shorter?
    Kobe Bryant

  48. 45- Kobe has been listed as 6’6″ although I read in an article that he’s actually 6′ 4.75.” It was an article where Kobe was in the Make a Wish Foundation, and the child who he granted the wish asked him what his real height was.

  49. Read that the Lakers just signed Dwayne Mitchell. Anybody know anything about him? Is he a SG or PG? It seems he was playing really well in the summer.

  50. 47. He’s a 6-3 guy who would probably be a tall PG in Phil’s system. Don’t get to attached, he’s signed to have more bodies for camp, that’s it.