Archives For International/Team USA

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 ESPN3.com.

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.

THE WHITE TEAM

* 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.

THE BLUE TEAM

* 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, NBA.com 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.