From Broderick Turner, LA Times: If you are a Lakers fan and you happened to catch USA defeat Brazil, 70-68, Monday in Istanbul in the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) World Championship, you had to see Lamar Odom do what he does best. Odom was so bad one moment and then so good the next moment. It is something Lakers fans have come to expect from Odom. He finished with eight points on four-for-10 shooting, nine rebounds, one assist, one steal and three turnovers in helping USA to a 3-0 record in Group B competition. But it was his play late in the game that was typical Odom.
From Mike Truddell, Basket Blog: On Monday, August 23, Kobe Bryant turned 32 years old. In the last 14 of those years, the Lakers’ 6-6 guard has shot, driven and dunked his way to 12th on the NBA’s all-time leading scoring list. That’s certainly an impressive enough feat, but when Bryant turns 33 next year, he may very well have vaulted all the way up to sixth on the ledger simply by producing at or even below his usual – if remarkable – rate. Let’s take a look at how Bryant has put himself in a position to get there: First, rewind the clock by two years, prior to the 2008-09 campaign, when Bryant was 26th on the scoring charts with 21,619 points behind a career average of around 25 points per game, plus an ability to avoid or play through injuries. Kobe was perched (or waiting to strike, rather) just behind Larry Bird (21,791), Gary Payton (21,813) and Clyde Drexler (22,195). During that season he jumped all three, and then splashed nets past Elgin Baylor (23,149), Adrian Dantley (23,177), Robert Parish (23,334) and Charles Barkley (23,757).
From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: More than any Laker, Derek Fisher proves beauty remains in the eye of the beholder… and beholders tend to view things through a lens of extremity. To some, Fisher is feisty, wise and virtuous — a local treasure who knocks down big shots with a frequency surpassed by only Kobe Bryant during his second tour with the Lakers. To others, he’s well past his prime, and sentiment helps fuel his popularity. To them, Fish gets used defensively by every point guard in the league, and clutch as he may be, the old man bricks more than his share of ho-hum shots.
From David Dwork, Peninsula Is Mightier: Something that we should all be expecting and even accepting as a certainty is that there is going to be a ton of Heat-bashing as we get closer to training camp. This is something that is going to be coming from all angles, regardless of the source. As basketball becomes relevant again there are going to be more and more stories finding things wrong with the Heat, their roster and the way they went about making that roster. Friday afternoon on ESPN’s ‘Jim Rome is Burning’, a pair of Los Angeles Lakers got the chance to take over the show. Derek Fisher sat down and interviewed his teammate Kobe Bryant on a bevy of topics, and I bet you can guess what came up pretty quickly.
From Chris Tomasson, NBA Fanhouse: As Brazil’s Leandro Barbosa walked by after Monday’s game, Team USA’s Chauncey Billups patted him on the back and said, “See you next week.” After getting a scare in their first test in the World Championship, the Americans wouldn’t be surprised if they run into Brazil in the medal round. “I think so. I really do,” Billups said of anticipating Brazil will get another crack at Team USA, which escaped with a narrow 70-68 victory at Abdi Ipekci Arena.
From Rob Mahoney, Pro Basketball Talk: Team USA is filled with hyper-athletic and versatile players, but the squad’s greatest strength is not its speed, its leaping ability, or the varied skill sets of its players. Above all else, the Americans’ greatest asset is their depth. While a team like Spain may have as many as eight NBA-caliber players, the American squad is loaded with NBA talent at every position. Even without the likes of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, et al on the roster, Team USA has more talent from top to bottom than any other squad in the tournament. Yet thus far, in games against Team USA’s most skilled opponents, Mike Krzyzewski has turned to a top-heavy rotation heavily dependent on its starters. It’s an understandable tactic for most NBA and NCAA teams, but given how talented this roster is? And more importantly, how roughly congruent every non-Durant talent on the roster happens to be? It’s ludicrous.
From 48 Minutes of Hell: Fair or not, San Antonio Spurs fans have been awaiting the arrival of Tiago Splitter since the team first drafted Luis Scola. Since 2002 (the year Scola was drafted) each FIBA tournament has served as a tease of sorts for Spurs faithful. And with each passing tournament the concept of foreign big man savior grew in its myth. Brazil’s narrow 68-70 loss to Team USA offered a bit of nostalgia for Spurs fans tuning in to see their prized big man. There again were the beautiful offensive sets of Brazilian head coach Ruben Magnano (formerly of Argentina) running roughshod at times through the USA defense. Splitter, however, is not Luis Scola. For one, he is already under contract with the Spurs. And with the will-he-or-won’t-he-come speculation long since over, today’s game finally removed some of the mystery surrounding the Brazilian big man.
From Gregg Doyel, CBS Sports: Lamar Odom missed two point-blank layups, which is what he does. Chauncey Billups made like Allen Iverson and shot every time he touched the ball, which he doesn’t do. This was the fourth quarter of the United States’ game Monday against Brazil in group play of the FIBA World Championships, and there I was, growling at the television. There I was — furious. Furious at Odom for being the same knucklehead for the USA in Turkey that he is for the Lakers in Los Angeles. Furious at Billups, on the team for his veteran leadership, jacking up shot after shot while one of the most talented pure scorers in the world, teammate Kevin Durant, went ignored on the wing. Furious at Andre Iguodala for saving the ball under the rim to the other team for an easy Brazil basket. Furious at U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski for playing these numbskulls.
From Brian Mahoney, Yahoo! Sports: Derrick Rose thought it was going in. So did Leandro Barbosa, who shot it. Instead, Brazil’s attempt to tie at the buzzer fell out, and the United States remained unbeaten, though no longer unchallenged. A world championship won’t come easily for this young team—if it comes at all—so the Americans believe their 70-68 victory over Brazil on Monday will help them in the later rounds. “Sometimes family that goes through adversity gets a little better,” center Lamar Odom said. “It’s a game we probably needed. Probably a good tuneup, especially going into the medal rounds, trying to finish up this tournament.”
From John Schuhmann, NBA.com: At the Abdi Ipekci Arena on Monday, Brazil confirmed the thought that it would be the U.S. National Team’s toughest competition in pool play at the 2010 FIBA World Championship. The U.S. confirmed as well that the road to gold would not be an easy one, despite their exhibition play success. Flaws were exposed. Lessons were learned. Character was tested. And when Leandro Barbosa’s spinning attempt under the basket bounced off the rim at the buzzer, the U.S. had escaped with a 70-68 victory. With pool play games against Iran and Tunisia left, the Americans have essentially wrapped up the top spot in Group B and a top seed in the 16-team, single-elimination tournament that begins Saturday.
From David Friedman, 20 Second Timeout: The FIBA World Championship begins on August 28. This competition rarely receives much publicity in the United States but for many basketball-minded nations it is very important, equal to–if not even greater than–the Olympics in terms of prestige; American kids who play basketball dream of winning an NBA championship but kids in other countries dream of leading their homeland to the FIBA World Championship title. The significance of this year’s FIBA World Championship for Team USA is that the winner receives an automatic bid for the 2012 Olympics (Team USA captured the 2008 Olympic gold medal but the previous Olympic champion is not guaranteed a spot in the next Olympic games); if Team USA does not win the FIBA World Championship then the United States will have to qualify for the Olympics by playing in the 2011 FIBA Americas tournament and that could be a dicey proposition if the NBA endures a strike/lockout: during the 1998 lockout, the U.S. fielded a team of non-NBA players that worked very hard but only managed to win a bronze medal in the 1998 FIBA World Championship (after the lockout ended, Gary Payton, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Tim Hardaway led Team USA to a 10-0 sweep in the 1999 FIBA Americas Tournament to qualify for the 2000 Olympics).
From Jenny Carlson, Newsok.com: If you want to know how big a star Kevin Durant has become, search his name on Twitter. The Thunder swingman had the Internet’s popular social-networking site buzzing after he led Team USA to another victory at the FIBA World Championships. He’d scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. He’d almost single-handedly held off Brazil’s upset bid. Durant was being talked about not only by folks from across the United States but also by people from around the world. There were 140-character comments in Spanish, Turkish, Italian and Portuguese.