Archives For International/Team USA

USA's Derrick Rose shoots during his team's FIBA Basketball World Championship game against Croatia in Istanbul August 28, 2010.   REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (TURKEY - Tags: SPORT SPORT BASKETBALL)

After Team USA’s recent win over Brazil, it was hard to remain optimistic about their chances to bring home the gold. The Brazilians were able to expose Team USA during long stretches on both sides of the basketball before dropping a game for the first time in these FIBA World Championships.

Both teams got out to hot starts with Team USA scoring 18 points on 12 possessions in the first 6:40 and Brazil scoring 17 points on 13 possessions in the same time. We expected the US National team to be this efficient on the offensive end with their athleticism, but they’ve been winning their games because of their defensive prowess, and haven’t allowed opposing offenses to be as efficient as the Brazilians were on the whole first quarter and the better part of the second half. The Brazilians – namely Marcelo Huertas – lived in the paint in the first half. Brazil’s first five field goal attempts, all good, were in the paint. Their sixth field goal attempt was a wide-open three pointer after a penetration and kick out. Their next six field goal attempts after the three-pointer were in the paint. Of Brazil’s first 12 field goal attempts, 11 were in the paint, and one made three-pointer because the point guard got in the paint. To end the first quarter, Brazil hit three straight three pointers and Tiago Splitter was found for a wide-open dunk.

Brazil was able to pick Team USA apart for most of the first half, scoring 46 points on 43 possessions, giving them an offensive efficiency rating of 106.97 for the half. Brazil ran a plethora of screen and roll sets and back screens off of the ball, allowing Huertas to run amok the American defense, living in the paint and finishing with six points and five assists in the first half. Huertas’ propensity to get into the paint at will didn’t just propel their offense, but it helped slow down Team USA’s offense. The Brazilians certainly didn’t score on every possession, but a lot of their misses came in the paint, reducing the amount of long rebounds that get Team USA in their coveted transition game. When Brazil did take shots behind the arch, they hit them at a 63 percent clip. Team USA had to play a large portion of the game in the half court.

While Team USA did have some very good stretches of offensive basketball (a 150 Ortg for the starters in the first quarter), they struggled mightily in the second half. Team USA was able to stymie the Brazilian offense by trapping hard on their high screen and roll sets, but weren’t really able to put a good offensive stretch in the second half. Of their 42 second half possessions, 11 ended in turnovers and nine more ended in missed shots around the rim, 20 wasted possessions. Team USA had ball movement problems, recording only eight assists for the game (compared to 15 for Brazil). Kevin Durant was able to score effectively, but the rest of the team struggled for most of the second half – especially the second unit. With at least two reserves on the floor, Team USA had an offensive efficiency rating of 76.92 compared to an offensive efficiency rating of 100 when at least four starters were on the floor (these number aren’t counting an absolutely awful fourth quarter for both teams, which forced me to tweet, “4th Q numbers: 18 pts, 9TOs, 9 missed layups/tips, 10 missed 3s and 10 minutes of Lamar Odom looking lost” – and yes, those were the numbers for both teams combined).

What the Brazil game taught us is that Team USA can be beat by their opponent repeatedly getting into the lane, limiting their time in transition, and shooting a high clip from behind the arch. Brazil played Team USA perfectly in the first half, and went into the break with a 46-43 lead. And as bad as they played in the second half, they were able to turn Team USA over enough to finish the game only one possession away from a victory. The US National team is going to have to move the ball much better than they did against Brazil. There were too many possessions where shots were taken off of one or fewer passes. Also, Team USA’s second unit leaves much to be desired. Russell Westbrook has had shaky confidence entering games, and has had to gain that confidence as the game progressed. Turnover problems start with the point guard, and if Westbrook can’t hold onto the ball, it’s going to continue to be rough for Team USA to keep their play consistent for 40 minutes – which they’re going to need to do when the Worlds begin the elimination rounds. Team USA has today off, but plays again Wednesday against Iran.

USA team pose for a photograph before their FIBA Basketball World Championship game against Croatia in Istanbul August 28, 2010.   REUTERS/Murad Sezer (TURKEY - Tags: SPORT SPORT BASKETBALL)

Team USA has looked very good in their two games against Croatia and Slovenia thus far. Below are a few links on Team USA’s performance up to this point and a little on the rest of the competition.

From Matt Haubs, The Painted Area: Um, so, yeah, about that pick of Spain to win the gold medal…. Just one day into the 2010 FIBA World Championship, the landscape looks mighty different as the United States efficiently dismantled a decent Croatia team 106-78, while Spain was shocked 72-66 by a French squad which was assumed to be merely decent as well. It may sound funny, but to me, the most impressive thing about the United States’ performance was that they forced only 12 Croatia turnovers and scored just 19 fast-break points. This wasn’t a game in which the U.S. overwhelmed the opponent by running them out of the building – performances which we’ve frequently seen vs. lesser opponents, and which can be difficult to sustain against better teams (as Kevin Pelton astutely pointed out on Basketball Prospectus).

From Mookie, A Stern Warning: The World Championships are pumping along just nicely, with the second day of action now under way. Day one in Kayseri saw a mixed bag of results. Firstly the Aussies gave their fans near heart-attacks with their last gasp win over lowly-ranked Jordan. Andrew Vlahov was in the stands to cheer the Boomers on. Defence was the main deficiency for the Aussies as they let the Jordanians waltz in for numerous uncontested baskets. The only Aussie performances of note came from David Andersen and Aleks Maric. In fact, Maric’s performance was so dominant that I had German girls in my hotel asking what NBA team he played for. He was the cog inside that the boomers definitely needed with Andrew Bogut’s absence. Meanwhile, Patty Mills didn’t show enough on either end to justify my usual man-love for him.

From Chris Tomasson, NBA Fanhouse: Not that he’s a candidate yet to replace Phil Jackson, but Lamar Odom let it be known Friday what he hopes one day to do. “That’s why I’ll be a great coach,” said the Lakers and Team USA stalwart about what his versatility will mean when his playing days are over. Odom, you see, has played every position on the basketball court, a claim not many can make. So perhaps it’s no surprise Odom, who is mostly a power forward during his day job with the Lakers, has emerged as the starting center for the Americans, who open the FIBA World Championship here Saturday against Croatia.

From Chris Tomasson, NBA Fanhouse: There’s a debate between Stephen Curry and Eric Gordon as to who is the best shooter on Team USA. The only thing they can agree upon is if they played H-O-R-S-E, it would last a very long time. “I got to say I am (the better shooter), and he’s going to say he is,” said Curry, a Golden State guard. “Of course, I think I’d like to be at the end of the day (the better shooter),” said Gordon, a Clippers guard. One could spend many a fortnight debating the subject. But let’s put it this way: On Saturday, Gordon definitely was the superior marksman. Gordon scored a team-high 16 points, including shooting 4-of-6 from three-point range, as the Americans defeated Croatia 106-78 at Abdi Ipekci Arena in their 2010 FIBA World Championship opener.

From Chris Tomasson, NBA Fanhouse: The NBA scoring champion was acting as if he wanted to be an assists leader. But that’s not Kevin Durant‘s game. So after a practice 2 ½ weeks ago during a training camp in New York, Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski pulled over his star forward. “In practice, I was passing too much, passing up open shots and trying to find an open man,” Durant recalled. “Coach pulled me to the side and just told me to be who I am, score the basketball. That’s one of my greatest attributes, as a scorer, and he just told me to go out there and play like I play in Oklahoma City. Be aggressive and also find the open man as well.”

From Brian Mahoney, Playing a rare early game, the United States had stalled after a quick start, and a double-digit lead was down to five as halftime approached. Then, every time the Americans needed them, Kevin Durant seemed to get on the scoreboard and Kevin Love was on the backboard. Durant scored 22 points, Love added 10 points and 11 rebounds in a gritty 13 minutes off the bench, and the Americans beat Slovenia 99-77 on Sunday in an opening-round game. “They did a great job of fighting, getting stops and making plays, and we know that we can’t go out here and blow every team out,” Durant said. “We had to make this a grind game and we did that, and a good job of keeping our composure.”

From Matt Lawyue, SLAM Online: So that was easy. Yesterday’s demolishing of Croatia (106-78) sent a loud message throughout the basketball universe (particularly contrasting against Spain’s unexpected loss) that Team USA should not be underestimated. Despite all the chatter about being too small, too young and too inexperienced, the American’s put on a well-rounded offensive display. Overall they shot 55.4 percent from the field, while going 12-30 beyond the arc. After a tight first quarter, where the Croatian’s pounded the ball inside for close buckets, Kevin Durant lead the charge in the second quarter where USA outscored Croatia 26-6. “I think we did a great job of talking in the second quarter,” Durant says. “Guys put pressure on the defense. It was a great team win. If you look at the scoreboard, everybody had a bucket, everybody contributed. It was a good win for us.”

Odom the Olympian

Jeff Skibiski —  August 25, 2010

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USA Basketball finalized its 12-man roster for the 2010 FIBA World Championships yesterday afternoon and as expected, the Lakers’ Lamar Odom was selected as one of its representatives. Odom will be joined by Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Rudy Gay, Chauncey Billups, Danny Granger, Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, Stephen Curry, Kevin Love, Tyson Chandler and Andre Iguodala. The 12 players who will compete this summer will join a narrowing pool of players with which USA Basketball will choose from when filling out its 2012 Olympic roster.

“We play professional basketball for a living,” said Odom, summing up his decision to play for Team USA this summer in a great feature from ESPN LA. “We come out and we represent our country with pride. This is something we do just for pride. We playing for the names on the front of our jerseys.”

Odom’s willingness to slap on the Team USA jersey, after three consecutive grueling trips to the NBA Finals, offers a great deal of insight into his character and motivation as a basketball player. To some, the chance to play for your country on one of the world’s largest stages is a no-brainer, yet several of the league’s top players chose to remain on the sidelines for this summer’s World Championships. Some had legitimate injury reasons (Kobe), while a lack of commitment by others was more confounding (Dwight Howard). The Lakers forward could have looked at this offseason as a time to rest up for the Lakers’ historic three-peat bid, saving himself from potential burnout or injury. Instead, Lamar jumped onboard without the slightest hint of hesitation, eager to to take the first step toward redeeming Team USA’s loss in the 2004 Olympics—a team on which his solid play received almost universal acclaim. Odom has been criticized in the past for his wavering motivation, but his dedication to Team USA has never been questioned.

As previously noted by Darius in last week’s Mailbag, Lamar’s selection has potential implications for both the forward and the Lakers this season, as well as for the 11-year veteran’s legacy. On a U.S. team seriously lacking in the size department, Odom was used as the team’s starting center against Spain earlier this week. Though that’s not a role he’ll be asked to fill in L.A. (barring catastrophic injuries to the Lakers’ entire front line), the experience should prepare Odom well for when the forum blue and gold will need him to join Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum on the court for Coach Jackson’s seldom-used “bigs” lineup.

That works both ways too, as Team USA’s reliance on Lamar to provide desperately needed muscle inside could open the door for Phil to use him in a dramatically smaller lineup against run-and-gun teams like the Suns and maybe more urgently, the Thunder. Neither of these possible roles are anything new for the Lakers’ versatile assassin or the Lakers, but the opportunity to observe Odom in a different context as part of Team USA is nevertheless an interesting one.

More than anything, I think that Odom will benefit the most from his more symbolic role with this year’s Team USA squad. As the de facto veteran sage, Lamar will be entrusted to do something he’s struggled with at times during his L.A. tenure—lead. Though Team USA has up-and-coming stars like Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose to take on the scoring burden during crunch time, it is the Lakers forward who has been through it all before as a starter on the 2004 Olympic squad. As such, he’ll be relied upon to help the set tone for Team USA in a tournament where most experts are actually picking them to place second or worse. The early returns have been mostly good for Team USA too, as Lamar produced a 12-point, 9-rebound performance against Spain earlier this week. He followed it up with a less than stellar game today in 18 minutes of playing time (zero points on one field goal), but his team still managed to blowout Greece, 87-59.

Overall, the experience should prove invaluable for Odom as he’ll not only be asked to serve as a locker room presence, but also as a consistent leader on the court too. While Lamar willingly accepted a new role as sixth man prior to the 2008-09 season, he hasn’t always shown himself as a reliable force off the bench, night in and night out. Against increased competition from teams like Spain and Greece, he’ll have to be consistent if Team USA hopes to prevail. As is the case with the Lakers, Odom is indisputably a key X-factor for Team USA, even in this differing role. With a replenished bench that now includes newcomers Steve Blake, Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff, the Lakers will similarly need Lamar to serve as a steadying force. Whether or not the forward can pull from this newfound leadership mentality and apply it toward next season is certainly one of the Lakers’ more intriguing plot lines heading into the 2010-11 season.

“We want him because of his versatility,” said Jerry Colangelo, about why he coveted Lamar’s presence. “He can be effective playing five minutes or playing 25 minutes. It’s not about 12 superstar players. It’s about finding the right components to make up a team. He fits the bill. He was valuable to us. We didn’t just pick him because how he plays, but because of who he is.”

After 11 NBA seasons, Lamar has still never been selected as an NBA All-Star, but now owns two NBA rings that I’m guessing hold a lot more weight for the Queens native. Next up: Olympic Gold Medal.

“I would love to go back and be able to redeem myself and win a gold medal, but more, I would love to go back just to play for USA again,” said Odom.

Looking ahead to what promises to be a challenging World Championship tournament, it is clear that Lamar’s priorities as a basketball player have shifted. While there is no guarantee that he’ll be an Olympian when the team carves out its 2012 Olympic roster, Lamar’s selflessness and commitment to Team USA’s endeavors prove that he’s worthy of the title either way.

Lamar Odom (L) of the U.S. goes up for a basket over Spain's Marc Gasol during their friendly basketball game at Caja Magica pavillion in Madrid August 22, 2010. REUTERS/Sergio Perez (SPAIN - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

This morning, the US National team will take on the Greeks, in Greece, in another preparation game for the World Championships. The US National team are fresh off a one-point victory over the Spaniards which ended with a game winning block by Kevin Durant. The Greeks have been in the news lately because of their recent brawl with Serbia, which forced the game to end two minutes early.

This is a Greek team that is coming into the game against the US with wins over Canada, Russia, Germany and Croatia by 74, 38, 28 and nine points, respectively. I’ve read that the Greeks have made their final cuts, so the team we see this morning will be the actual roster that will suit up for the Worlds. However, it’s been reported that their starting center, Ioannis Bourousis, will not play due to an injury. No suspensions have been handed out from their brawl yet, so the USA will see everyone else on the roster.

One guy we should look out for is Sofoklis Schortsanitis, the 6’10”, 350+ pound monster on the block affectionately nicknamed Baby Shaq. He’s never been a great scorer, but he’s a bruiser. Considering the US National team’s size problems, Schortsanitis could be a huge problem on the boards for our guys. Outside of that, I don’t see the US having too many problems with this Greek team. They’re ranked fourth in the world and are a high quality opponent, but the Americans are just too athletic up top and too quick defensively for this Greek team. Vassillis Spanoulis is a quality point guard and Antonis Fotsis is a formidable power forward, and are two guys who can potentially do very good things against the US National team.

As far as Lamar Odom goes, he had a very good showing against Spain and I think his good play should continue against the Greeks, who don’t have anyone who can match up with his size and athleticism.

You can watch the game on ESPN, or watch it online at

U.S. national basketball team players (L-R) Lamar Odom, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose take a break while warming up at Madrid's Caja Magica pavillion prior to a friendly game against Lithuania August 21, 2010. The U.S.A. basketball team is in Madrid to play two friendly games against Lithuania and Spain in preparation for the upcoming Basketball World Championships in Turkey later this month. REUTERS/Paul Hanna (SPAIN - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

It may not be a Lakers game, but there is actual basketball on today that is well worth a watch as Team USA faces Spain in a warm up to the FIBA World Championships that begin next weekend.  This is the first time that these two countries have faced off since the 2008 Olympics gold medal game where the Americans beat the Spaniards 118-107 in a thrilling, hard fought contest.

And while this is technically a rematch, the only thing that is truly the same is the name on the front of the uniforms – especially when speaking about the US team.  Because while Spain is missing its best player and current Laker Pau Gasol, the American squad will not return a single player from the team that clinched the Gold in Beijing almost one two years ago to the date.

So, while Spain will surely be looking for a bit of revenge as they warm up for a tournament in which they’re favored by many analysts to win, the U.S. team is really looking to find a rhythm as a unit and sure up some of their weaknesses so that they can continue the run they started at the Tournament of the Americas starting in 2006.  Because while there are some that do believe the US to be the 2nd best team leading up to the tournament, the Americans themselves remain confident and hope to continue to build momentum and show that this country is still the one that rules the basketball world.

But mental state aside, this US team will be tested today.  Because while the U.S. team was able to defeat a game Lithuania team yesterday on the strength of their pressure defense and open court play, today’s game will feature a Spanish team that is better than it’s European counterpart in every conceivable way.  As Matt Moore explains at ProBaskeball Talk:

The contest does lead to several significant questions going into tomorrow’s exhibition against the arguable favorite in the FIBA tournament, Spain. Spain is going to have better shooters, better bigs, better defenders, and better ball athletes. If USA comes out in a shooting slump like they did today, often lost on rotations inside and struggling to contain the boards, that game likely won’t right itself like today did.

As Moore mentions, the U.S. team’s real weakness is with its inside play.  In the past, the one advantage the U.S. team could typically rely upon was its superior talent in the pivot.  However, with nearly every great American big man either declining invitation or injured and unable to play this Summer, the U.S. team is going with a big man rotation of Tyson Chandler (starting Center), Lamar Odom, and Kevin Love.  And despite my personal affinity for LO and Love, those guys are not Howard, Bosh, and Amar’e.  Really, they’re not even KG, Bynum, or Brook Lopez as they don’t possess the size, defensive excellence, or offensive polish of the big men that have donned the U.S. jersey in recent international competitions.  This means that the shot blocking, interior rotations, and ability to plain “beast” it on the offensive end just isn’t there with this group.  This bears watching today.

But besides the interior play, what I’ll really be looking for today is how the guard rotation shakes out and if the U.S. team can show a bit better touch from the outside.  This team, despite the presence of Kevin Durant, Billups, Curry, Granger, and Eric Gordon is not a good outside shooting team.  Because while Westbrook, Rose, and Iguodala have all flashed an improved jumper they’re not quite the consistent shooting group that could off-set the lack of high level interior play.  And when you throw in Rudy Gay and Rondo, what you really have is a team that is built on strong defense that leads to open court chances.  As for the rotation at guard, yesterday against Lithuania, Rondo was put on the bench to start the second half in favor of Westbrook (which turned out to be a very good choice as the young OKC guard was the driver behind the win).  And seemingly every game, there seems to be another guard that steps up to make an impact.  At some point though, a standard rotation will have to shake itself out so that players can get comfortable in their roles.  Maybe that shaking out begins today.

And we’ll all be able to see together.  So, join us here as we observe the action.  You can watch on NBA TV at 12 noon on the West coast and you can also click here to watch the game online at ESPN3.

Lamar Odom is surrounded by members of the media at a U.S. national basketball team practice in Las Vegas, Nevada July 21, 2010. REUTERS/Laura Rauch (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Last night, ESPN2 aired the Team USA intra-squad scrimmage. As you would expect from an exhibition game featuring guys who haven’t spent a lot of time together on the court, the game was rather sloppy and I don’t expect the scrimmage to weigh too heavily on the decisions made by Coach K and Brian Colangelo. Recapping the game won’t be necessary (the white squad won 114-96), but there were a few guys who stood out and made a case for a spot on the team.

* Before I get into some of the players who impressed, I’ll take the opportunity to share a few thoughts on Lamar Odom. Odom went into camp out of shape and hadn’t participated in any basketball related activities since helping the Lakers bring home number 16, and it showed in the scrimmage. LO finished with just two points, six rebounds and three assists (which you’ll see in Kevin Garnett and Derrick Rose highlights later). Odom’s poor showing in the intra-squad scrimmage really doesn’t mean much in terms of him making the squad. From everything that I’ve read, Odom is pretty much a lock to make the team as a veteran presence among a slew of youth. His versatility (he started at center in the scrimmage) and the lack of size on Team USA is coveted by the Colangelo/Coach K brain trust and will definitely make the first set of cuts to be happening on Monday.


* As expected, Kevin Durant had the biggest showing of the bunch finishing with 28 points and player of the game honors. Durant began his night with what was arguably the highlight of the night – a nifty crossover that led to a dunk that set the tone for the white squad – and had a four-minute stretch in the third quarter where he scored 10 of his 28. Durant picked his spots nicely, didn’t force anything and was genuinely enjoying himself out there on the floor. He did have seven turnovers, but it was a sloppy game all around. Only Derrick Rose and Chauncey Billups played more than 20 minutes and finished with no turnovers. Below are a few highlights from Durant’s night.

* Derrick Rose played along side of Durant and also had a fantastic night finishing with 15 points, eight assists, five steals and no turnovers. Rose played a lot stronger than his counter parts at the point guard spot and definitely made a case for not only making the team, but also for starting as he impressed more than the other point guards. Rose’s quickness isn’t news to anyone, but watching how fast he changes direction and his ability to change speeds is still awe inspiring every time you get an opportunity to watch him play. You’d be hard pressed to find a more athletic point guard in the NBA right now. Below are some highlights of Rose.

* Also for the white team, Andre Iguodala impressed with 17 points, six rebounds and five assists. His game was stamped all over the first half with athletic moves to the basket, he hit all three of this 3-point attempts and got to the free throw line six times. Eric Gordon hit four of seven from behind the arc and was 50 percent from the field for the night. I don’t think Gordon has done enough in the past week to earn a spot on the roster, but he did some good things while on the floor in the scrimmage.


* Rudy Gay did a lot of the damage for the Blue Team scoring 23 points and going three for four from behind the three point line (both teams shot over 45 percent from behind the arc). No news, Gay is a terrific scorer and was able to get his points in a multitude of different ways: he hit from behind the arc, was able to create shots off the dribble, scored from the block, got the free throw line seven times and was able to grab a few offensive rebounds (4) and convert those to points. Like Durant, Gay finished with seven turnovers but seemed committed to playing defense, finishing with a pair of blocks and steals. Starting Gay and Durant on the wings would make Team USA awfully long, but bringing Gay off the bench to replace Durant would keep a long, athletic scorer on the floor at all times. I don’t think there is anyway Gay doesn’t make this team. I’ve been having problems getting my Rudy Gay clips up, so hopefully I can have them for you guys at a later time.

* Rudy Gay’s Memphis teammate, O.J. Mayo, also had a strong night scoring 18 points while showing off the clean stroke on his jump shot. There was a lot of talent on the floor, and Mayo didn’t let anyone forget that he was on the floor. He was able to get loose on a few fast breaks and excite the Thomas and Mack crowd with some dunks. Mayo has wanted to play point guard since he was a Trojan at USC, but is finding his game translates better as an off guard with his ability to shoot. He hit a few pull up jumpers and knocked down half of his three point attempts. Mayo highlights are shown below.

* Also for the blue team, teammates Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green both did a lot of good things. Westbrook was a hound defensively on the parameter and finished with three steals to go along with his 14 points. Westbrook is one of the most fearless guys in the NBA and attacks the rim relentlessly. Jeff Green finished with 11 points and a very quiet eight rebounds (second only to Tyson Chandler). If you’re going to make this team, grabbing rebounds is a great way to do it considering Team USA’s size issue.

As I mentioned earlier, Coach K and Brian Colangelo will look to make four cuts on Monday and hope to have their roster down to about 15 by the time they play an exhibition game against France in New York at the Madison Square Garden in August 15. From there, the team will travel to Europe to play a few more exhibition games before the FIBA World Championships start on August 28.

MENS hoops

With the NBA Summer League done with, Las Vegas is now home to the USA National Basketball training camp where 27 guys will be competing to make the 12 man roster that will take on the world come August 28th. Among those 27 is the Lakers own Lamar Odom.

This summer, Team USA will have a new face – or a plethora of new faces – as no one from the Olympic Gold Medal team will play in the World Basketball Championships. This opens up the door for a lot of the NBA’s young talent like Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Danny Granger and the Lopez twins to compete for a roster spot and wear their country’s colors. Looking at the 27 invited to camp it is safe to say that competition will be fierce. Below I’ll take a short look at the positional break-downs and will have more on the team’s progress at the end of camp and again when the roster is cut to 12.

Centers: Tyson Chandler, David Lee, Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez and Kevin Love (Amaré Stoudemire was invited to camp, but is expected not to play after the Knicks requested that he sit out the worlds).

At first glance, these aren’t the kind of names we’re used to seeing at the center position for USA Basketball. This list lacks bruisers, this list lacks that defensive presence that penetrating guards will immediately fear, and most importantly, this list lacks a truly dominant center. When I said that these aren’t the names we’re used to seeing, I don’t mean the names per se, but more what the names represent. From Dwight Howard to Shaq to David Robinson to Hakeem Olajuwon – those were all names that represented what have defined the center position; tough, brutal, physical dominance in the paint. A few weeks ago, Rob Mahoney wrote on the lack of a traditional USA center for Hardwood Paroxysm, and I couldn’t agree more with his argument: it’s hard to be excited for this group of big men. I do think that the Lopez twins will be able to hold their own in the Worlds, but Kevin Love is extremely undersized and doesn’t rebound at a great rate while David Lee doesn’t play a lick of defense. Tyson Chandler, who would be a good defensive presence, needs a quality point guard on the floor to be a factor on the offensive end. It’ll be interesting to see which direction Jerry Colangelo chooses to go with this group.

Power Forwards: Jeff Green, Lamar Odom, Gerald Wallace

Green, Odom and Wallace are an athletic bunch and have all proven to be solid complementary players. Lamar Odom has the largest skill set of the three, but as we all know, he is consistently inconsistent. Odom’s past Team USA experience and the fact that he’s a proven winner gave him the early edge going into camp. Gerald Wallace is the best defender of the group, and actually has a better shooting percentage than Odom and Green. In the international game, a lot of power forwards are going to stand around the arc and launch up three pointers. I think Wallace’s game translates well to the international game, he has the ability to guard on the wing and also bring his game out there if needed. Shooters will be needed against the international zones, and if Wallace shoots at a higher rate than the other two, I think he has a great shot at making the team. For Jeff Green, he could end up being the odd man out despite being part of the Team USA program for a few years now. Colangelo and Coach K really like him as he’s played well at camps in the past, but if the two other guys have games that translate better to the international game, he could still be waiting to take his turn in wearing the national colors. However, Green is a very good perimeter defender and is young and athletic. With none of the Olympians returning for the worlds, we might see Colangelo and Coach K look to bring a youthful team to Turkey.

Wings: Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon, Danny Granger, Andre Iguodala, O.J. Mayo

Kevin Durant is pretty much a lock for the starting three spot, but I can see up to three more of these guys making the roster. I think Danny Granger’s game translates to the international game the most out of this bunch for his ability to play and guard three different positions with his size and athleticism. He can fill up a stat sheet and will do all of the dirty things that don’t show up in box scores. Rudy Gay is athletic and a good scorer, as is O.J. Mayo, but Mayo is a much better shooter than Gay is, which is going to be needed off of the ball. I like Andre Iguodala and Eric Gordon, but I feel like if two of these guys aren’t going to make the team, it’s these two. Iguodala isn’t a good enough shooter and Eric Gordon isn’t athletic enough to be much more than a shooter. Gordon has a great stroke in his shot, can shoot it off the dribble and in catch-and-shoot situations, but he isn’t bringing too much more than that to the table at this point in his young career.

Point Guards: Chauncey Billups, Stephen Curry, Tyreke Evans, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook

I think this will be the most competitive portion of the roster. I think Chauncey Billups veteran presence will earn him a spot on the team and I think Derrick Rose is just too good to not make the team, but Curry, Evans, Westbrook and Rondo can all do great things. Of this group, it’s hard to fathom any of these guys not making a basketball team, but I think after Billups and Rose, either Rajon Rondo or Russell Westbrook earn the final spot. We’re talking about two extremely fast guys who can jump in just about any passing lane and are deadly in transition. Both of them have shaky jump shots that can hurt, but then again, these are the two point guards of the two teams that gave the Lakers the biggest run for their money. Tyreke Evans, as much as I love watching him play, has a game that least translates to the international game. Then again, people were saying that his game wouldn’t translate to the NBA and he posted a 20-5-5 line in his rookie campaign. Stephon Curry’s shooting and playmaking ability will keep him competitive, I just think there are better point guards. I’m not knocking his game, because I love watching this kid’s game as well.

Until 2 p.m. Pacific Time, will be showing an inside view of the NBA training camp (which I’m sure will be aired at a later time as well). For more information on Team USA, make sure you check out the official website. I’ll try and keep you guys as updated as possible on LO and the rest of Team USA.

Pau Dominates With Spain, Too

Kurt —  September 20, 2009

Olympics Day 16 - Basketball
If after its first game of Eurobasket you had said Spain was going to walk away handily with the title, most people would have said “that Spain, the one just crushed by Serbia? HA!” Nobody questioned Spain was the most talented team, but they didn’t play like it. But by the end, Pau Gasol was tournament MVP and he had another major title (and Spain got revenge on Serbia beating them by 22).

Here are some comments from Xavier, our friendly basketball coach from Spain.

(Spain) reminded me a lot the 2008 Boston Celtics. They started real slow, playing awfully and almost being sent home too early. Serbia killed them by 20+. They started clicking after the last second loss against Turkey. Lithuania (+14), Poland (+22), France (+20), Greece (+18) and Serbia (+22) where their victims. Everything that happened before was just the ugliest basketball they’ve played in six years.

As a Laker fan, I hope Pau doesn’t feel too tired next season because this one have been veeery long, NBA champions, Euro champion, and almost no summer to rest, next week will be flying to LA to start preseason. About his finger injury, nothing to worry about, he’s been incredible.

All of this sets up a potentially very interest ring World Championships next year in Turkey.

Name me a basketball fan that didn’t enjoy the Olympics final. A single one. I want more of them, actually I’d wish every single team played at that level. I enjoyed Eurobasket final till half 3rd quarter, when it was all said and done. I want 4 quarters 40 minutes basketball games (48 minutes NBA wise). I want to cheer every play ’cause the opponent won’t give my team a second chance to shine. I want every competitor to give their best while playing against the best.