Archives For September 2010

Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson goes to the basket over Detroit Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Michigan April 12, 2010. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

From Romy Aquino, Hip Hoop Junkies: What significant moves were made during the offseason? Well, the offseason has pretty much been a bust for the Toronto Raptors. First off, Chris Bosh decided to “take his talents to South Beach” and join forces with Dwyane Wade and one, Mr. Lebron James. To make matters worse, Bryan Colangelo wasn’t able to turn CB4 into a substantial name coming up north. Then, there were a flurry of rumours that were flying around this summer, where Toronto would give up Hedo Turkoglu, Jose Calderon and Reggie Evans for Leandro Barbosa, Boris Diaw and Tyson Chandler. Most fans got excited for this potential new-look Raptors team but that dream trade was quickly crushed when MJ got off the golf course and vetoed the trade. The lone bright spot of the offseason was that Colangelo was able to unload that hefty contract of Hedo Turkoglu for the Brazilian Blur, Leandro Barbosa.

From Ryan McNeill, Hoops Addict: What are the team’s biggest weaknesses? The team is going to get torched in the paint and on the glass this season. Last year the team averaged 40.4 rebounds per game and Bosh averaged 10.8 of those rebounds. With over a quarter of those rebounds up for grabs it makes sense that Johnson, Bargnani and Davis will step in and gobble up the extra rebounds. However, that is far from being guaranteed as the numbers from last season don’t back up that assumption. In the seven games Bosh missed at the end of the season, Davis saw his rebounding numbers stagnate (4.8) instead of increase.  Even more troubling is the fact those numbers were inflated due to two games which saw him snag double-figure rebounds. The scary part is in three of those seven games Johnson only managed to grab two rebounds.

From Adam Francis, Raptors HQ: What are the goals for this team? Bryan Colangelo would probably answer this question by saying the goal is to make the playoffs. Yes, that’s always a nice thing to say to the media, but frankly this to me looks like a rebuild situation for the franchise.  Therefore I think the main goal for this club should be player development.  Guys like Sonny Weems, DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis and even Joey Dorsey etc need coaching and experience as well as adequate playing time so hopefully Jay Triano and his coaching staff provide these things next year. The truth is that no one really knows if guys like DeMar or Weems have what it takes to be stars in this league, let alone solid role players.  If this team wants to rebuild, it needs to sort out the true potential building blocks from the fringe types, and this should start this season.

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From Darius via Land O’ Lakers: Soriano: While Miami poses the best hypothetical threat due to their extreme talent base, I still have to go with Boston. Yes the Celtics have aged a year and adding the O’Neals [Jermaine and Shaquille] doesn’t make them any younger. But that team defines the term “tough out” and we all saw how hard the Celtics pushed the Lakers in last year’s Finals. Granted, the Celtics will have to get to the Finals first but if they do I think they’d present the toughest challenge and would have the best chance of winning the series.

From Chad Ford, via Brian Kamenetzky of Land O’ Lakers: “The Lakers, fresh off their second consecutive NBA title, weren’t going to reinvent the wheel this summer. The team had most of its key players in place once Phil Jackson decided to return and really needed to address one big issue — point guard. The Lakers took care of business by bringing in free-agent guard [Steve] Blake and then re-signing [Derek] Fisher. Fisher is getting old and Blake won’t light up the world, but together they’re strong enough to lead the Lakers to a third straight title. The Lakers’ front office also did a solid job in the draft. With two second-round picks it landed [Devin] Ebanks, a Trevor Ariza-like long, athletic wing, and [Derrick] Caracter, a low-post bruiser who can really score in the paint. Both players would’ve been potential lottery picks had their bad reputations not scared teams away. If Jackson, Kobe & Co. can keep them in line, the Lakers may have scored big in the second round.”

From Mark Medina, Los Angeles Times: Kurt Rambis had already seen the transformation last season, changing from Lakers’ assistant coach to the Minnesota Timberwolves’ head coach. The losing culture, the fledgling personnel and the bitter cold served as the most vivid differences compared to the Lakers’ 2009 title run, the loaded and steady roster and the year-round perfect weather. Minnesota also recently did something the Lakers wouldn’t need to do in a million years: putting out a full-page ad in the local newspaper in hopes to assuage concerns from its fan base. Among the highlights from the Timberwolves’ “long-winded letter” in the back of Monday’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune included the team’s admission it likely won’t win an NBA championship this season and a jab at Ricky Rubio. The Lakers wouldn’t need to resort to these measures in buying a full-page ad for The Times, as they’re eyeing a three-peat and have enjoyed being the main sports franchise in Los Angeles. But in case they were to change their mind, it might go a little something like this…

From Brian Tung, Silver Screen and Roll: Superstars are rare. We who are Lakers fans might lose sight of that from time to time, because we’ve had the fortune to watch so many, but it’s true: Superstars are few and far between. It’s part of what makes them superstars. So when you’re lucky enough to have one on your team, you root for him long and hard. Inevitably, those who aren’t lucky enough to have a superstar on their team send some bitterness your way. And because they aren’t lucky enough to champion their own superstar over yours, their only option is to champion some other team’s superstar—even more so, usually, than the fans of teams that have a superstar. It’s a bizarre sort of one-upsmanship where some third party ends up on top.

June 17, 2010 - Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - epa02208456 Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant (C) and Lakers' Derek Fisher (R) celebrate after defeating the Boston Celtics as Celtics' Paul Pierce (L) walks away during game seven of the NBA Finals at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, USA, 17 June 2010. The Lakers defeated the Celtics 83-79 to win their 16th championships.

The Lakers have been a blessed franchise.  From Minneapolis to Los Angeles the Lakers organization has fielded championship teams 16 times over and delivered fantastic memories for fans spanning several generations.  Being able to root for the teams led by the likes Mikan to West to Magic to Shaq to Kobe I think we can all agree that Lakers’ fans have been some of the luckiest in all of sports.

I bring all this up because an interesting question was raised in the comments yesterday that really got me thinking.  I’ll let commenter lil’ pau take it from here:

Artest’s acquisition, then so many injuries during the regular season including a Bynum heartbreak, then 2 out of 3 playoff series that I would call breathtaking (and the only bad one containing one of the all time best games in history), then coming back from 2-3 against the hated ones to win 2 straight at Staples, including trailing by 13 in the 3rd in game 7, to win for the first time on the home floor since 2000… and with Artest making a critical unlikely three…?!?! There’s a reason that last year turned out to be my favorite season as a fan, even including Showtime.  I wonder how others here think last season compared to other championship runs (2000 was also great, especially that incredible comeback against Portland, and also the year of the Magic baby-hook in the Garden…)

The question of someones favorite championship is a great one because I think everyone has that title run that most sticks out in their mind.  For example Chris J chimed in with his:

All told, I’d have to rank my favorite wins as 1985 — finally beating Boston, in Boston — and 1988, when the team went Back-to-Back after an all-out grind against Utah, Dallas and then Detroit.

Last season’s win will likely rank up with ‘85 and ‘88 over time. Beating Boston is always great, and there were so many memorable plays — Pau’s put-back vs. OKC; Kobe’s Gentry shot; Ron’s buzzer beater vs. the Suns; Fish’s three to tie Game 7 vs. Boston; and Artest’s three to ice the title, just to name a few.

Still, those just haven’t had time to fully sink in yet. Ask again in a few years and I bet people’s rankings are different.

Honestly, I struggle with this question as every championship celebrated has been a wonderful moment that is special in its own way.  I’ll always love 1987 because it was the rubber match between Magic and Bird where the winner would likely be seen as the better player.  2000 also meant a lot to me because of all the struggles that team went through in prior seasons before breaking through for the ring.  And 2010 will always be special because the Lakers not only beat the Celtics, but they exacted some revenge from 2008 and did it in a dramatic game 7 victory that while not pretty, showed a level of grit and toughness many thought the Lakers still lacked.  So, it’s tough for me choose one that stands above the rest.

But that’s exactly what I’m asking you to do.  What title has been your favorite?  Maybe it was 1972 when Mr. Clutch finally got his ring.  Or maybe it was 1980 when Magic put on a performance for the ages as a rookie.  Maybe it was the 2001 run where the Lakers were the playoff juggernaut that only lost one game on their way to the championship.  Let me know in the comments, but understand the entire time that as a Lakers fan you’ve been pretty lucky to witness what you have.

April 07, 2010 Milwaukee, WI. Bradley Center..New Jersey Nets Devin Harris brings the ball up the court on a fast break, Harris had 25 points and 5 assists against the Bucks tonight..Milwaukee Bucks won over the New Jersey Nets 108-89. Mike McGinnis/CSM.

Today, the team previews continue with the New Jersey Nets whose troubles to win last season were nearly historical. Check these next few links to see why things should be a little better next season for Jordan Farmar’s new squad.

From Sebastian Pruiti, Nets Are Scorching: What are the team’s biggest strengths? The Nets’ biggest strength going into the season is going to be the play of the center and power forward. Brook Lopez is quickly becoming one of the best big men in the game, and he is only 22 years old. He averaged 18 points a game last year while facing constant double and triple teams. This year, with better players around him, Lopez is going to see less one on one coverage and should be able to take advantage. Something that doesn’t get mentioned is his health, as he hasn’t missed a single game in the first two years of his career. Troy Murphy is a former all star who is one of the best rebounders in the NBA. As mentioned earlier, he can stretch the floor, but is also able to score from the inside. Brook and Troy’s skillsets mean we should see a lot of high-low action this year, and it could be very successful.

From Nets Daily: What significant moves were made during the off-season? Since Kenyon Martin was traded in 2004, the Nets biggest weakness has been at the power forward spot. They  finally addressed this glaring hole by drafting a potential stud in Derrick Favors with the third overall pick, but by also acquiring the sweet shooting lefty, Troy Murphy. Murphy will allow Favors to come along a little more slowly instead of being thrust into the starting lineup from the get-go. Acquiring Murphy did come at a price, though, as young guard Courtney Lee was shipped out in the four-team deal. It hurts to lose a young player with potential, but the emergence of Terrence Williams made him expendable.

From Dennis Velasco: What are the team’s biggest weaknesses? It’s still a young team and only have one player, Jordan Farmar, with a championship pedigree.  There is a lot of that aforementioned hope, but will there be any production?  On paper, everything looks good – a fairly strong starting line-up with some solid bench players, a good mix of skill sets, and record-wise, one of the best coaches in NBA history.  However, there is still an air of doubt surrounding this unproven team, especially after a 12-70 season.  Biggest weakness?  Fear that things work out as well as free agency.

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Below are today’s Lakers links:

From Janis Carr, OC Register: Derrick Caracter’s rearview mirror is crowded with blurred images of what he has left behind. They are moments the Lakers rookie doesn’t like to reflect upon, choosing instead to look at the possibilities that lay ahead. But what does the future hold for Caracter, a 21-year-old post player with a jagged past? Can he keep his weight in check? Will he be able to crack the Lakers’ rotation and Phil Jackson’s resolve of not playing rookies? Caracter realizes he faces long odds of making it in the NBA. But the former Texas-El Paso forward, taken with the No. 58 pick of the 2010 NBA Draft, is eager to be a part of the Lakers’ drive to another three-peat this season and possibly a career at this level.

From Ben Hernandez, The Examiner: The Lakers’ second round draft pick , Derrick Caracter, was able to fully guarantee the $473,000 in his contract for the 2010-11 season by meeting a weight incentive that required him to be 275 pounds or less. In addition to the added contract bonus, Caracter credits his weight maintenance to changes in his dietary habits suggested by a nutritionist. “I don’t eat red meat anymore or processed foods,” said Caracter. “I realized it doesn’t really agree with me and by not eating that stuff, I feel a lot better and have more energy.” The Lakers’ 58th pick overall experienced conditioning issues in the past, which caused his weight to fluctuate from 265 to over 300 pounds.

From Andrew Sharp, SBNation: Illustrating a much broader point about economic inequality that’s emerged in the technological age, Klein calls it the Kobe Bryant Theory of Inequality: It’s some heady stuff, and if you’d like to delve into the wormhole of this debate, then starting with this Slate series is probably a good idea. I just got a kick out seeing Kobe’s name in the midst of a serious debate about economics and technology. And Klein makes a good point. Where someone like Michael Jordan didn’t become a truly “global” celebrity until the Dream Team in 1992, today, it’s easier than ever for NBA Superstars to reach audiences abroad. This is partly because of the NBA’s push to become a more global brand, but moreso, it’s a credit to technology. The NBA’s goal would be laughable without satellite technology and broadband internet.

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: In the wake of Team USA’s gold-medal win Sunday over Turkey at the World Championships in Istanbul, ESPN.com’s Chris Sheridan delivered his early forecast on what the roster could look like when the 2012 London games roll around. Not surprisingly, his list of guards includes Kobe Bryant. Watching Kobe help lead the U.S. on a pride-restoring run through the ’08 Olympic tourney in Beijing was great fun for many Lakers fans. It also added a summer of fairly intense play to his already loaded hoops docket. When London calls in two years, only incredibly obvious references to The Clash will be more ubiquitous than questions about Kobe’s age and mileage. He’ll be just shy of 34 years old, and in a perfect purple-and-gold world coming off yet another extended trip through the playoffs. The guy already has more wear than the average player of his age, and by the summer of ’12 could easily put another 7,000-plus minutes in the rear-view mirror.

Lastly, I came across this post on the best international dunks ever. While I feel like they left out a few really good ones, they did include a back-board shattering dunk from Michael Jordan that I hadn’t seen before. Check it out:

Amar'e Stoudemire holds up a Knicks jersey after working out a 5 year and nearly 100 million dollar contract to play with the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden in New York City on July 8, 2010.    UPI/John Angelillo Photo via Newscom

Today we continue to look at season previews from teams around the league and make a stop in New York. We have a few bloggers with some interesting takes on what the Knicks will lock like next season:

From Mike Kurylo, Knickerblogger: New York has been a bad rebounding team for D’Antoni’s tenure, and this is one area Donnie Walsh failed to address in remaking the team. Stoudemire, Gallinari, and Turiaf aren’t good rebounders, and the loss of hyalophile David Lee will hurt the team as well. According to my stat page, the Knicks were 27th on both offensive and defensive rebounding last year. Knick fans who cringe at their team forgoing any second opportunities while allowing tip ins from the opposition will have a furled brow for much of the season. Perhaps Randolph and Mozgov can work their way into heavy minutes and help prevent the bleeding. Last year the Knicks were tied for 3rd worst defense in the NBA, and it has been a recurring issue with the team for the last decade. The Knicks have some good defensive pieces in Azubuike, Randolph, Douglas, and Turiaf. However most of the team (including the coaching staff) leans to the offensive side of the spectrum. If New York isn’t among the 10 worst defenses this year, it should be considered an accomplishment.

From Robert Hall, Bandwagon Knick: After two seasons of scorched earth roster decimation, Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni actually got down to the business of building a team. Sure, a certain prized free agent decided to go elsewhere as part of a SuperFriends package in South Beach, and no small amount of fretting took place among Knick fans as coveted plan B free agent Joe Johnson was signed to an absurd contract by the Atlanta Hawks. But Walsh promised backup plans covering every letter of the alphabet, and he delivered by: 1) signing Amar’e Stoudemire to a max contract, 2) pulling off a small coup by trading David Lee to the Golden State Warriors for Kelenna Azubuike, Ronny Turiaf, and is-he-a-head-case-or-a-crazy-transformational-multi-positional-player Anthony Randolph 3) acquiring PG Ray Felton in a very thin market for guards for a reasonable two year, $15.8m deal, 4) signing young Russian center Timofey Mozgov to a 3 year $9.7m deal, again reasonable given the scarcity of bigs, and 5) drafting and signing second round picks Andy Rautins and Landry Fields, with the latter making enough waves in the Summer League to merit especially high praise from ESPN’s David Thorpe.

From Seth, Posting and Toasting: Depth! I bet I’ve said that each of the last three years, but I mean it this time, y’all. All of the signings have blessed Mike D’Antoni with the manpower to experiment with lineups, adjust to all kinds of match-ups, and weather any injuries. Moreover, D’Antoni has depth of the defensive variety, with a whole quiver of different weapons at his disposal. He’s got two ball-seeking missiles in the backcourt (Raymond Felton and Toney Douglas) , some steady broadswords to deter wings (Kelenna Azubuike, Wilson Chandler, and even Landry Fields), and the option to either bludgeon big men (Ronny Turiaf) or pierce them with venomous laser beams from space (Anthony Randolph). This team also appears well-equipped to run the pick-and-roll. Ray Felton isn’t Steve Nash, but he’s a capable lead guard, and he’ll have an elite roller to feed in Stoudemire. Randolph and Timofey Mozgov should see touches in the pick-and-roll as well.

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Over at Land O’ Lakers, Brian Kamenetzky invited a collection of Lakers experts (Darius included) to discuss who they thought would present the biggest challenge for the Lakers. I’m sure most of us know Darius feels that the Rockets will present that challenge – and as usual, he and Kurt are on the same page:

Helin: If the Lakers are completely healthy, there is nobody in the West that beats them. Portland, Oklahoma City and, if completely healthy, San Antonio can push Los Angeles, but not beat them. One team that should scare Lakers fans a little is a healthy Houston Rockets. If Yao Ming is 100 percent come the playoffs, with a backcourt of the speedy Aaron Brooks and sharpshooter Kevin Martin, plus great role players like Shane Battier and Luis Scola … that’s a really good team. More than any team, they match up well with the Lakers. But you’d need a fully healthy Yao to make it happen.

Another one of the teams that guys were high on was the Oklahoma City Thunder. Their youth, their talent across the board and that one guy leading them — what’s his name? Oh, Kevin Durant, will definitely be a formidable opponent. Henry Abbott argues that Durant’s performance during the Worlds set the stage for Durant’s 2010-2011 MVP campaign:

Back when this tournament started, I suggested it was a chance for Kevin Durant to kick of his NBA MVP campaign, and I got some pretty nasty comments. But let’s be honest: He just went out there and played head-and-shoulders above the rest of the world. He took what everyone assumed was an undermanned Team USA. He did and said everything right, played so beautifully it could make you cry, and brought great pride to his nation while leaving no doubt he was the MVP of the tournament.

 

It’s possible all that will matter not at all to MVP voters at the end of the year. And I can understand why some people insist it should have no effect for an NBA award.

Lastly, the official Lakers website has been counting down the top 10 moments of the Lakers season, and number for was Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, my second favorite game of the post season. 37 points, nine in the final two minutes and that tap on the butt that he gave Alvin Gentry after he knocked down that extremely tough long two pointer with Grant Hill all over him.

In Praise Of Team USA

Darius Soriano —  September 13, 2010

ISTANBUL, TYRKEY. SEPTEMBER 13, 2010. USA's Chauncey Billups and Lamar Odom (L-R front) hold up the trophy as the US team celebrate their 81-64 victory over Turkey in the final of the 2010 FIBA World Championship at Istanbul's Sinan Erdem Dome. (Photo ITAR-TASS/ Roman Kruchinin) Photo via Newscom

Yesterday, Team USA did what many thought they could or would not do – they won the FIBA World Championships Tournament and cemented their status as the best basketball playing nation on the planet.  The American team defeated host nation Turkey 81-64 and cruised to the title by playing the type of pressure team defense and Kevin Durant fueled offense that carried them the entire tournament.  A hearty congratulations to the U.S. team.

This is a team that earned our respect for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost is the fact that many actually picked a different nation to claim this title.  With the U.S. not returning a single player from the 2008 Olympic gold medal team, many saw a young, inexperienced team, that lacked size and leadership.  Many labled them the B-team.  But, as Kevin Durant tweeted after the game: “B-team huh?? Haaaaa we got it done…US, seat pleasant, dc, oklahoma city…we did it for yall..GOLD MEDALIST”. 

Secondly, they played a brand of team basketball that many were unsure they could actually play.  Guys that many may see as second (or even third) tiered players that are asked to carry their NBA teams on most nights, abandoned any selfishness and contributed to wins by playing to their individual strengths that can sometimes be dormant when they put on their NBA jerseys for their respective teams stateside.  I mean, watching Andre Iguodala become a defensive and rebounding force while eschewing taking shots for the betterment of the team? Rudy Gay doing the same?  Eric Gordon hustling on defense to the point that he caused shot clock violations almost single handed?  Sure these players have shown in flashes that they are capable of playing this way, but to show a nearly complete committment to playing the role(s) that the coaches envisioned for them on a nightly basis was a great treat.  The fact that their perseverance was rewarded with the ultimate payoff only reinforces what the U.S. is capable of doing in international competition – regardless of the make up of the roster.

Below are a few notes on some of the players with some random thoughts gleaned from the gold medal game and the tournament as a whole:

*Kevin Durant is a monster.  I suppose you could say that we knew this already and that this is no revelation.  However, his performances in the elimination portion of the tournament were exceptional.  Not only was his scoring fantastic (99 points combines in the final 3 games) but his defense and rebounding were top shelf too.  Plus, his ability to raise his game in the big moments was just fantastic.  It seemed like any time the U.S. needed a big bucket, Durant was there to put the ball through the hoop.  Whether by driving to the hole, showing off his impressive handle and mid range game, or by bombing away from long distance, Durant continued to prove he’s as dynamic an offensive player we have in the world while also showing a great understanding of “the moment”.  Some players that show that they’re the former never quite prove to be the latter, but Durant is both.  What a talent.

*As far as explosive guards go, I don’t know if there is one better than Russell Westbrook right now.  Sure, there are more complete PG’s (Paul and Williams immediately come to mind) and there are better floor generals (Nash, Rondo) but Russell is the type of guard that can get you out of your chair in an instant.  His quickness, strength, and athleticism combination is unmatched (even by Derek Rose) by any other point guard and measuring these traits for a “pound for pound” argument, I would say he’s right up there with some of the best athletes in the entire league (yes, even Lebron, Wade, and Howard).  And sure his jumper needs some work and he can be a bit out of control at times, but focusing on the things he struggles with means you’re missing the point with this player.  Westbrook is just a fantastic young player that will only continue to grow and get better.  The sky is the limit for him.  (On a side note, you notice the first two players I’ve mentioned play for the Thunder? Yikes.)

*I already mentioned Iguodala, but he deserves even more praise.  His rebounding and defense were top notch the entire tournament and the self-less way he played deserves recognition.  And while his size and physique (you saw his Karl Malone arms, right?) sometimes had him miscast as a defensive stopper against some of the smaller, quicker guards in this tourney, his overall play on that side of the floor was stellar.  Add that to the fact that he willingly moved the ball and really only looked for his shot in transition situations and off hard penetration showed me that he’s also extremely coach-able and understanding of what winning basketball is.  I know when he goes back to Philly they’ll ask him to be the do it all scorer/playmaker for his team, but I shudder to think of what he could be playing next to an elite scorer like Durant where all you asked him to do defend, rebound, and slash off the ball.

*Quietly, Lamar Odom did exactly what he was asked to do and did it well, overall, for this U.S. team.  Yes he showed that his inconsistencies can be as great as his talent level, but in the end he battled hard in the medal round and once again proved his worth to a winning team.  The man just does all the little things well and it was very nice to see him step up in the second half of the gold medal game to help turn a semi-contested game into a contest that wasn’t that close down the stretch.  Whether it was rebounding, bodying up bigger offensive players, starting the American’s fast break with pin point outlet passes, or slashing into the open space for either finishes or to make the extra pass on offense, the man filled a bunch of roles for this team and deserves his credit as a World Champion twice over (FIBA and NBA) in the same year. 

*On a not so positive note, I was not that impressed with Chauncey Billups in this tournament.  While he showed good presence as a floor general by aligning his teammates in the half court offense, he also often broke off too many possessions to fire up long range jumpers early in the shot clock.  I know that Billups has long been a fan of the “dagger” three pointer that can salt away the hopes of the opponent, but in the last few games I thought he went for these shots too often and did so in situations where it was not required.  I thought his defense was good, but that it wasn’t to the level of Westbrook and Gordon. 

*Lastly, on a confused note, I’m not sure why Kevin Love didn’t play more.  Without a representative (be it Coach K or anyone else) commenting on it, I would assume it had to do with the want to always have the most athletic team on the floor at all times that saw Love’s minutes decrease.  But, for a guy that rebounds and passes very well while also having some range on his jumper to only see one minute of game time in the gold medal game?  I just don’t get it.  When Turkey was really giving the U.S. fits in the first half with their zone defense, I really thought a Love/Odom front court with Durant, Westbrook, and either Billups or Gordon would have been a great line up to try out.  But alas, Coach K kept the T’Wolves’ big man glued to the bench.