Team USA, Free Agency, and Other Stuff…

Darius Soriano —  August 14, 2008

Some quick hit notes about what’s going on recently in the Olympics and the NBA in general…

*Team USA ran away with it’s third consecutive game with a 92-69 bashing of Greece.  From the recap, this was obviously a meaningful game for the Americans.  Out of all the recent failings of Team USA in international competition, none has stung more than the defeat they suffered at the hands of the Greeks in the World Championships in 2006.  With that extra motivation, Team USA used its pressure defense and athleticism to take down the Greeks in another rout for the U.S. in its quest for Gold.  Today’s highlight play (SportsCenter’s Top 10 play for sure) was a D-Wade steal and perfectly thrown lob to Kobe for a tremendous two handed slam all while Wade was falling out of bounds.  If you haven’t seen it yet, believe me, you’ll get plenty of chances later today. (Update: here it is.  Hat tip to Awful Announcing via Ball Don’t Lie.)

*Speaking of Wade, Flash is back.  (Besides Bosh) Wade has been the pleasant suprise of Team USA.  I was one person who, before this tournament started, questioned Wade and how he would fit in with this team and whether his game would translate well to the FIBA style of play.  I thought of an inconsistent long range jumpshot and wondered how he would create for himself against the zones that Team USA was likely to face.  Color me dumb.  Wade’s first step and strength has been the difference in him getting whatever he wants on offense, be it scoring or creating for others.  Wade has been fantasic as a playmaker (5 assists in 20 minutes against Greece) and has wreaked havoc in the passing lanes (6! steals in this game) and in finishing on the break (he’s obviously not alone there, though).

*As for our favorite son, Kobe, he finally had a more efficient offensive game.  Kobe had 18 pts. on 7-14 shooting and finally found some range on his jumper, going 2-5 from deep.  There have been questions about Kobe’s offense…if the shorter 3 point arc is messing him up, if his hand is injured, if he’s tired, or if the magnitude of playing in the Olympics (remember it’s his first time in FIBA play on this grand a stage) has him a little too excited.  Maybe it’s all of the above.  I happen to think he’s just a little out of rhythm and that his offense will come.  I also think that his “doberman” mentality on defense has made his offensive game less efficient.  He’s treating every defensive possesion like it’s the final possesion in the game and working like a mad man.  Sometimes working that hard on D makes your O suffer.  But, he had a decent game today, so maybe he’s turning the corner.

*Other Olympic notes:  Pau Gasol has played well for Spain.  He’s been shooting a good percentage from the field and had an excellent showing against the host country, China, with 29 pts., 8 reb., and 3 blocks.  Our other favorite Sun, Mr. Yue has played well.  His exploits against Team USA have been covered, but he also had a nice outing against Angola.  Sun had 11 points on 4-4 shooting (including 2-2 on threes) while also registering 2 assists and 2 steals in 29 minutes.

*On to the Association…In case you haven’t heard, Josh Smith and Andre Iguodala re-upped with their respective teams.  Iggy definitely got the better of the two deals, and as the better player (IMO) I think that should be the case.  As for Smith, Memphis GM Chris Wallace should get another high-five from a rival GM as he gave the Hawks an easy out by signing J-Smooth to a very fair market contract offer-sheet, and thus easily allowing the Hawks to match.  Even with ownership issues abound in the ATL, matching that deal was easy as pie.  Also making news of late is the 3 team trade that landed Lebron a new running-mate in PG Mo Williams.  Without getting too much into the details of the deal (but if you want a strong oppinion, check out Hollinger’s), I think the Cavs did well to get another guy who can handle the ball and score some points.  Williams may not be a classic PG, but he can handle the ball, run an offense, and he can score the ball, thus allowing Lebron a little more rest on offense.

*One final Olympics note:  Big props to Michael Phelps.  I am a Phelps Phan and will be rooting him on tonight in his quest for more shiny neck ware.

(UPDATE: As Paydawg mentioned in the comments, the Lakers have agreed to terms with former Clipper, Josh Powell.)

Darius

Darius Soriano

Posts

40 responses to Team USA, Free Agency, and Other Stuff…

  1. First!! Go Darius, you da man

  2. So I guess this means either the Bucks have that much faith in Ramon Sessions or Mo Williams hates Milwaukee.

  3. that play was SICK

  4. anoni,
    The Bucks also got Ridnour in this deal from the *Team That Clay Stole to OKC*. The also signed Tyronne Lue as a FA in the off-season. I’m not saying that either of those players are as good as Williams (because I don’t think that), but they are PG’s and they can split time in the Bucks backcourt running the show. This deal also reeks of a salary dump, getting Williams off of their cap and replacing him with cheaper players that they (seemingly) like is a move that can be backed up with some reason.

  5. Signature play for me today was made by Jason Kidd.

    As a PG with good size on Defense … he was caught on the block, in a defensive rebounding position with one of Greece’s plethora of Bigs, and insteand of simply relenting J-Kidd battled his rear end of …

    * almost got the rebound
    * almost lost the rebound
    * almost got the loose ball
    * almost lost the loose ball
    * stole the ball away from the Greek player

    took a dribble up court and fired a half-court bounce pass that was RIGHT-ON-THE-MONEY to Kobe, up-court, for an easy-as-pie dunk/layup.

    Simply a thing of beauty to behold.

    Put J-Kidd and Kobe on the 2002, 2004 and 2006 Team USA’s and … there would have been considerably less debate over the seemingly-sorry-state of US basketball, on the international stage, during the intervening years.

    Individual players make THE difference, at this level of competition.

    [providing there is also competent coaching, of course]

  6. re: Cavs adding Mo Williams

    The Cavaliers are lost without a roadmap.

    Until they make a coaching change … ala the Chicago Bulls’ dismissal of Doug Collins AND the subsequent appointment of a head coach like Phil Jackson … i.e. someone with a well-formed (and unique) Philosophy of Basketball which fits with the sublime talents of Lebron James … the Cavaliers are doing little more than TREADING WATER.

    http://khandorssportsblog.wordpress.com/2008/08/14/cavaliers-one-step-forward-one-step-back/

    Mo Williams is NOT the answer in Cleveland.

  7. According to Hoopshype.com – Lakers just signed Josh Powell.

    “Championship!”

  8. To me Mo Williams wreaks of “bloated stats on a crappy team” kind of guy. But whatever, I’m not shaking in my boots over Cleveland anyway.

    I liked Powell with the Clips. I think he’s a nice, much cheaper replacement for Ronny.

  9. On first sight, I, too, like the Josh Powell signing, as a role player, for the Lakers.

  10. Powell can do everything Ronny did for 1/10th the price. I love Ronny, but for the minutes that will be available at the 4 & 5, the cheaper route is the way to go. Especially since the issue of Bynum’s extension is here and now.

  11. - Kobe’s shot selection was much better today. I think he made a conscious effort to spot up a few feet behind the international 3-point line. Obviously, it payed dividends.

    - I haven’t been impressed with Bryant’s defense though. His legs look weary. And understandably so.

    - I hate to see anyone have surgery, but Kobe’s might be a blessing in disguise since it will allow him to rest a few additional weeks heading into next season.

    - Dwyane Wade looks like he’s on a mission. Kobe might have some serious competition when it comes to 1st team All-NBA next year.

  12. Supposedly Mo and Redd has ZERO chemistry and by end of season weren’t passing the ball to one another.
    Personally,the Cavs would have been better off just trading for Ridnour. I really don’t understand how a team that is desperate to keep LeBron can consistantly fail to get players that would complement him,not depend on him.

  13. Great post Darius. That play was absolutely stunning.

    I, however, am largely unimpressed by Sun Yue. His game is filled with poor ball-handling in traffic, too much dribbling without purpose, and not enough stick ‘em on defense. Maybe (hopefully) he’ll come around with lots of practice, but a “Chinese Magic Johnson” should have more than 2 assists.

  14. Consider this an LA Lurker report. At home, despite some occasional outbursts, we seem to be very happy to see a team return virtually intact. According to ESPN trade machine, two of our 4 available unfilled
    slots have been committed to Dwayne Mitchell (approx. $442K) and Coby Karl (approx. $711k). Public announcements have been made about Sun Yue and now Josh Powell–but no terms. Does that mean that Mbenga and Crawford are out? Maybe Coby remains unguaranteed–leaving Crawfod a serious chance?

    We’ve heard that Lamar is being considered for the 2, which suggests that his role on the Lakers next year remains uncertain–but Lamar’s support in Los Angelesn a remains very strong.

    That’s fortunate, because outside of LA, Lamar does not get the appreciation he deserves. That’s a polite way of saying that his name does not spontaneously come up as a desireable person to trade for. I could see Lamar providing a virtually risk free boost in Sacramento, Chicago, Memphis, Detroit, with at least possibilities in Miami and Orlando. I don’t hear a whisper of interest–not even for his expiring contract-not even totally unacceptable trade suggestions (ala Ron Artest). Redemption for Lamar is yet to arrive across the NBA.

    So far, it looks like he’ll just have to play a major role winning a championship for the Lakers–and then we’ll all need to figure out how to keep him here as a Laker.

  15. nomuskles,
    I actually have *seen* very little of him and went mostly off the boxscores in gauging his performance, so I don’t doubt that you’re right about the level of his game right now. I actually think it will do him better to come over sooner and learn his trade with the Lakers rather than continuing to perform for his Chinese team or play with the Chinese National team. Much like Yao (and what I think we’ll see from Yi), I think Sun would benefit more from NBA coaching and playing with elite players who try to bring out the best in him and provide the example of what it takes to be an NBA player.

  16. the other Stephen August 14, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    i think the josh powell signing was excellent.

  17. khandor; I don’t what you are talking about. The Cavaliers made a great trade.

    Giving up garbage like Smith and Jones well beyond their respective careers for a player that can hit the three, drive and dish; not to mention he is in the prime of his career. I don’t see the down side.

    Stephen: Why do you think that Mo Williams will need to depend on James? I think he is a proficient ball handler and shooter. What LeBronesque player in Milwaukee did he depend on to produce the way he has when healthy?

    I think the Cavs will be an EASTERN conference contender next year and are definitely better today than yesterday. I just hope we beat them a couple of times to pay back for those close losses last year.

  18. You know what’s interesting about Yi. He’s not impressive in the league. But he has a great a deal of confidence out there on the floor playing for China. I think he’s more comfortable playing for China among his mates so he’s willing to assert hiself (he probably dominates them in practice) and maybe MIlwaukee’s coaching staff just had no idea how to best use his talents. I think you’re right about playing in the NBA, though. Yi and Yao have loads more confidence in the Olympics, it seems partly because they know they play against the best of the best everyday and they ain’t scared to bring it.

  19. All I have to say about the Sun Yue signing is that it was BRILLIANT in terms of marketing and selling merchandise in L.A. I think this guy will be a player for us, he has all the tools. He’s athletic and quick, maybe he needs to hit the weights a little more, but really with our trainers I’m sure he’ll be up to par within a year. I like this guy for two reasons one it gives us leverage in negotiating Lamar’s next contract and two we finally have a point gaurd thats over 6’2. We now match up better with teams that have big point guards and we can give opposing teams fits as seeing NO team in the league has a pg thats 6’9! If you put your gaurd or sf on him that just leaves Kobe or Lamar open to do their thing against the smaller player thats guarding them. If you leave your pg on him then Yue can post up ANY pg in the league all day! I’m ecstatic this year seeing as I’ve been saying to my co-workers since the Lakers traded Critt that they should bring up Yue and finally my wish has come true.

  20. Sun Yue:

    I haven’t seen the Chinese team play since they squared off against the United States. But I was impressed with Yue’s ball-handling in that game. He didn’t seem bothered by the pressure that was being applied to him by Kobe.

  21. Desmond Mason was in my store a few weeks ago and I asked him what he thought of Yi. He said, looks like they pulled another Nowitzki. Now maybe he saw the writing on the wall regarding his stay as a Buck but it didn’t come off as a bitter comment, just an observation. That said, Sun seems to bring to his team a little more then Yi and I would not mind seeing our boy grow into his nickname. Your think the real Magic might take the sort of gig with the Lakers that Kareem has?

  22. Powell a Laker: The Los Angeles Lakers have found a replacement for departed big man Ronny Turiaf, signing free agent Josh Powell on Thursday. The terms have yet to be released.

    Powell is a 6’9″ forward/center going into his fourth season. Over the course of his three full years in the league, he’s played for four teams – getting traded twice.

    He most recently played for the Los Angeles Clippers who waived his non-guaranteed contract to make cap room for players like Brian Skinner and Steve Novak.

    While the Lakers were saddened to see Turiaf go, they deemed the Golden State Warrior offer sheet (at $4 million a season) as too costly. Turiaf was full of energy but with the hopes that Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom will be healthy this coming season – his minutes would have been limited.

    Powell struggled in his early days as a Clipper. The team had a difficult season with numerous injuries. Eventually Powell got the opportunity to not only play heavy minutes but to start. As his body adjusted to the increased demand, so did his efficiency.

    Through the month of March, he was playing 29 minutes a game, averaging 8.6 points, 7.1 rebounds while shooting 49.6% from the field.

    His overall numbers were much better as a starter which begs the question . . . can he be productive in limited minutes for the Lakers?

  23. I’m excited about the game against Spain tomorrow. Should be a good test to see just how good the US team is. This is by far the best team the US has played. Apparently the US are 14.5 point favorites. We will see though Spain is deep and talented.

    I’m interested in seeing how the Gasol brothers play. Get to see what the Lakers gave up in Marc. Also we get to see Rudy Fernandez (who will be guarded by Kobe that should be a fun match up), and the 17 year old phenom Rubio.

  24. As a Laker fan, there was another signing I’m even happier about. Apparently Jannero Pargo is heading to Russia this year instead of signing with the Spurs or Hornets.

  25. RE: Bucks, Cavs, Ex-Sonics Trade

    I agree with Hollinger for the most part. One of the terrible parts of the theft of the ex-Sonics is that the organization has one of the best GMs in Sam Presti. I hate seeing the team being well managed. All I hope is that even with all the cap room (they’re going to have, they aren’t able to attract any good free agents. But they guy is so smart, he’ll have enough draft picks to put together a fairly strong team at a pretty low price that might end up making them more economically viable in OKC.

  26. Are Dwayne Mitchell and Josh Powell expected to make the team or did the Lakers just sign them to have extra bodies for training camp?

  27. That’s a good question that I don’t have the answer to just yet. Kurt mentioned after the Mitchell signing that Dwayne would probably be just that (a camp body) as he’s just a D-league type player that deserved the camp invite after playing well for the summer league team. Powell may be a different story though. He has experience in the league and has an established game/skill set that (seemigly) matches up with some of the things that we lost when Turiaf left. Couple that wtih the fact that we are maybe one big man short (just as insurance) and Powell makes more sense, especially if he’s for the minimum. A lot of people thought that Mbenga would just be brought back, but Powell may be that player instead.

  28. Thanks, Darius. That makes sense. I like Powell for that role but wasn’t sure since the team usually likes to keep roster spots open in case other players become available. Assuming Sun Yue’s spot is guaranteed, I guess the team could still keep Powell and Coby Karl and still have one spot open, right?

  29. Empty the Bench has put up a nice little interview with our one and only Kurt from FB&G. Go over and give it a read as Kurt discusses our squad…

  30. I know that USA plays Spain in about 5 and a half hours. Does anyone know where I could watch this game?! Please help.

  31. 32. You can watch it on http://www.nbcolympics.com/

  32. I think it will be shown delayed on the west coast on NBC. Check in at 9am or 10am.

  33. Wow. The Spaniards were smashed.

    My favorite thing about the live broadcasts are the absence of commercials. My least favorite thing? Snapper Jones.

  34. 35. Dang…. you had to spoil it.

  35. S. Nicholson,

    Sorry … Didn’t see your comment til just now.

    Why is Mo Williams not an upgrade for the Cavs?

    Mo Williams is a poor M-2-M defender which will not endear him to Mike Brown.

    Mo is a mid-range scorer, not really someone who stretches the Defense out but someone who allows the D to be compact in the paint.

    Mo now has a rep around the League as someone who is selfish and has trouble getting along with his teammates, e.g. Michael Redd who is generally perceived to be a choir boy by most others.

    In general, I don’t like the games of smallish PG’s that are NOT dead-eye perimeter J-shooters who need the rock in their own hands in order to create for themselves off the bounce.

    Damon Jones is no loss for Cleveland … but Joe Smith is.

    Joe Smith can hit a mid-range J, as a Big; rebound and defend his spot, in the NBA.

    Joe Smith is solid role player in the NBA.

    For the Cavs sake … hope I’m wrong.

  36. khandor, I understand your point about Williams reputation and lack of defense. You just have to believe that he will give more respect to LeBron than Redd. Also the Bucks are not a very good defensive team and the Cavs may be able to install a better defensive mentality in Williams, since defense is mostly effort (maybe not, we’ll have wait and see).

    I have to disagree with your assessment that he can’t stretch the D. Mo shot 3.5 three pointers per game last year and made a solid percentage (38.5%). I think that percentage may even increase with LeBron’s ability to draw the help defenders into the lane and kick to the open shooter.

    Okay, you’re right Joe Smith is not garbage; he is a solid role player. Though he is an aging role player (33 years old) and I just have to think that Mo Williams will bring a lot more to the table than Smith would have. He may be small, but so are a lot of excellent point guards. So I still have to see this trade as a positive for the Cavs.

  37. (27) Lane,

    Check my LA Lurker report (15). I have done some additional Googling and I now believe even more strongly that Dwayne Mitchell actually has a guaranteed contract. Check ESPN trade machine and look at the restrictions.

    Dwayne’s a 25 years old with incredible athleticism, but no outside shot and limited ability to convert freethrows. He’s most recently list at 6’5″, but earlier scouting reports had him as short as 6’2″. Everyone agrees he has a strong upper body and quickness–built a bit like a football running back. Why would the Lakers sign him? Has to be defense against quick point guards–no? He may be a bigger, stronger, faster version of Tyrone Lue. I could live with that.

    Although details have not been disclosed, I believe that Josh Powell will get the veteran minimum for one year and the “Sun man” will get a two year contract in the $1 million range.

    That takes us to 14 slots.

    I think that #15 is Coby’s to lose.

    That means no Mbenga, Crawford, or Tractor Traylor–among others.

  38. S. Nicholson,

    Another thing about Mo’s arrival in Cleveland which doesn’t help their team get better … is the effect it will have on Daniel Gibson.

    Each one of Mo’s 3.5 3PT Shots per game is a shot that Boobie won’t get to shoot. … and a line-up doesn’t work with both of them on the floor at the same time because they are both short.

    In my experience players with the attitude that Mo seems to have don’t really respect anybody … Lebron or not.

  39. hey folks, don’t forget to use SPOILER ALERT when talking about games in a different time zone, I couldn’t help but see Chilbi’s comment before watching the USA v Spain game, so whlie i watched it anyway, it isn’t as good if you already know the outcome.
    thanks