Wednesday, August 30, 2006
USA!! USA!! USA!!
They didn't shoot well, but when they needed to make some plays, they did.
So goes the story of this tournament for the United States.
They won by 20. Had they made 25% more threes, they would have won by 50.
Doubters will say that this proves they're vulnerable, that they don't know how to win a close game and that they won't be able to stop a good international team like Spain or Argentina.
Maybe those "insiders" are right. They watch a lot more of this tournament than I do.
However, if I were one of those nations, I'd be wondering how I can keep the United States from having one breakout quarter. It's that one quarter that has done in every team that's tried to take the U.S. down, and with this much depth and this much talent, I think it's going to be mighty hard to keep them from getting off on a big run.
Now it's time to play with the big boys. We'll see if the United States has what it takes. I'm thinking that they do.
Bring on Greece!!
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
I can see the logic now:
“We haven’t been to the postseason since 1994, right? What was going on back then? Don Nelson was the coach, right? You know what we should do! Let’s bring him back!!!”
Nelson is 66.
He left Dallas because, and I’ll use his own words here, “"I just think it's time," Nelson said, showing little emotion. "We want to win games and we want to get better, and I didn't see us doing either of the above since the All-Star game."
He left so they could get better. Great.
And you know what, they did.
Now, that’s not to kill the Nelson with the first name Don who uses only one n. Nellie has made a career of turning around mediocre teams, and this roster has the potential for that pattern to continue.
But, Nelson’s first go-around in Golden State ended with a rift between him and Chris Webber. Can he get through to Baron Davis and Jason Richardson?
The bigger question here is why any NBA team would even look to a college coach at this point. Mike Montgomery was an absolute disaster in Golden State, and the funny thing is that everyone knew that would happen.
Here are the great college coaches who have made the leap to the NBA recently in addition to Montgomery: John Calipari, Rick Pitino, Jerry Tarkanian, Lon Kruger, and Tim Floyd.
The results have not been pretty.
Throw in Montgomery’s record and combined they are 500-792. That would be a 39% winning percentage.
I know Coach K is great, and he’s clearly proving he can coach NBA-level talent at the World Championships, but seriously, if he had taken the Lakers job that franchise would probably be in disarray.
NBA teams, please stop hiring college coaches. It’s pointless.
A little like bringing back a burnt out 66-year-old coach who has never won a title.
The Warriors will probably improve, but what difference will it really make? I hope Nellie already has his successor in mind.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
USA! USA! USA!
A very interesting game that I followed live thanks to the wonderful NBA TV network.
Now, ESPN2 had the game on at some point. I knew this to be true. But, between their grid listings on my cable system, their Web site listings and NBA.com's listing, I truly had no idea when it was scheduled as each listed a different start time. So, screw them, let's listen to Rick Kamla.
Team America started in their typically slow fashion.
Their transition defense was bad. Andrew Bogut dribbled behind his back to get past Elton Brand for an easy score. The Aussies grabbed a 15-14 lead. The one thing the United States had working early was the 3-ball, as they scored 12 of their first 14 from distance.
Coach K put D-Wade and Dwight Howard into the ballgame at the same time midway through the first, and I was ready for the big run. But, the game only turned slightly once he did. Wade went right to the rim easily for a basket. Bogut tried the same behind the back dribble and was denied by Howard. Two more U.S. offensive possessions resulted in easy baskets by Howard and Wade. However, Howard got two quick fouls and came out after only 4 minutes and D-Wade looked sloppy early with a lot of turnovers.
The U.S. had a 27-23 lead after the 1st.
And then it happened.
They played tenacious defense. They forced turnovers left and right. Joe Johnson caught fire from the outside. Andrew Bogut got in foul trouble. Carmelo Anthony started attacking the rim, then turned to draining 3s. The Aussies missed what felt like 20 3's in a row (I'm not keeping running stats for you!). LeBron moved the ball brilliantly to beat the zone, leading to another wide open shot for Joe Johnson, who then stripped the ball cleanly at the other end and went coast to coast for the jam.
It was beautiful and horrifying all at the same time depending on your perspective.
Thanks to a 17-1 run and a 32-6 (SIX!) quarter, the United States led 59-29 at the half. Team America shot 78% from downtown in the half. Australia did not.
Some notes from the second half, since the outcome was well in-hand at this point:
Something seems off about Elton Brand's game to me. His patented 12-footer isn't falling very often and I can't figure out why.
The Japanese are there to see Dwayne Wade and LeBron James. The oohing and aahing after every move to the basket is very refreshing.
Nice to see Brad Miller hitting some shots and Chris Bosh getting some quality minutes. The U.S. is going to need one of them at some point in this tournament.
Overall, I thought it was a pretty typical performance from the United States. They turned it on in the second quarter like they've been doing, and they won it by forcing turnovers and making wide open shots.
Bring on Germany.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Only six weeks to the start of NBA training camps. Will second-round draft pick Dee Brown be in Boise, where the Jazz will once again go to get ready for the season?
No, I'm guessing.
Brown is the second-round pick out of Illinois who is being asked to make the difficult transformation from collegiate shooting guard to professional point guard.
While Brown had some eye-opening moments during the Rocky Mountain Revue summer league â€” mostly because of the range on his jump shot â€” his play was generally disappointing.
He had a difficult time keeping other point guards from penetrating, and he seemed uncomfortable in the role of primary ballhandler.
Unlike their other second-round pick, Louisiana Tech forward Paul Millsap, the Jazz have not signed Brown to a contract.
I don't think they will, either.
Brown probably wants some guaranteed money that, right now, the Jazz are unwilling to give.
While Brown obviously wants to play in the NBA, he might have to go overseas to get a guaranteed contract.
At the same time, he could get a chance to perfect his point guard skills, perhaps setting himself up for an improved chance to stick in the NBA in a couple of years.
Do you hear the crying? That would be NBA League Pass executives who were banking on the millions of University of Illinois fans purchasing their product to watch the reunion of Deron Williams and Dee Brown.
There was just one problem with the plan. Dee Brown's not an NBA caliber player. He's fast. He makes some 3's. That's about it.
Where will he get minutes among these guards: Deron Williams, Derek Fisher, Matt Harpring, 1st-round pick Ronnie Brewer, and Gordon Giricek?
I would be concerned right now if I were Brown.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
USA!! USA!! USA!!
When you fire a game up on the TV and see Brad Miller in the starting lineup, there's no point in continuing.
D-Wade's minutes in this one: zero
United States' interest in watching this game: zero
5-0 and onto the next phase for Team America.
Bring on Australia!!!
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Loyal Nothing But Nylon reader A-Wam questions why people care:
Thank you to the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks for finally ending what has been the most overblown, unsurprising, uncomplicated player acquisition in the NBA this summer.
The Pacers brought tweener forward Al Harrington back to Indiana in exchange for a future first round draft pick.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand why the Hawks wanted to take their time and get the best offer after throwing out the idea that you could field a competitive NBA team with five small forwards.
Furthermore, I don’t blame Harrington for never wanting to take another dribble wearing a Hawks uniform in the apathetic pro sports town that is Atlanta. But forgive me for not getting excited about this recent blockbuster.
In theory, Hawks GM Billy Knight probably felt now was the time to pull the trigger based on the fact the Atlanta Braves are about to miss their first division title in over a decade, the Falcons traded T.J. Duckett, and oh by the way, the pride of Georgia—college football season is just around the corner with the Yellow Jackets taking on second-ranked Notre Dame on opening weekend.
The Harrington trade to Indiana is similar to the plotline of Snakes on the Plane. (For the record, this writer decided to include it in his list of 15 summer movies, regrettably, unlucky No. 13).
Any reasonable person who was allowed to get into the R-rated film knew that snakes mysteriously got onto the plane, would attack and kill some of the passengers, but somehow, someway, Samuel L. Jackson would find a way to save the day and walk away from the situation as cool as he did as Jules in Pulp Fiction.
The same can be said about this trade. Indiana knew that Atlanta had limited options, and without a marquee player on their roster that would fit the Hawks’ needs, a first-round pick was a decent compromise. The proposed four-team blockbuster talked about Monday was as real as the marketing play that allowed you to get a phone call from Jackson demanding you go see his Oscar-worth film.
Giving up that 2007 first round pick may be prove to be Indiana’s worst move yet and despite the acquisition of Harrington, this team will have an even tougher time making the playoffs than they did last year in a division that sent all five teams to the postseason.
Quite frankly, the way the NBA’s Central Divison is shaping up, I think I may have rather been on that plane with Jackson than a fan, player, coach or front office executive of the Indiana Pacers.
The Hawks are some franchise. Where is Steve Belkin when you need him? What? He's there. Oh. Way to get a first round pick for your second best player. That'll help turn things around.
USA!! USA!! USA!!
Well, if you believe what you've read, the U.S. survived their first test and faced "their first wake-up call." Whatever.
Contributor SS summed this up the best earlier today when he said "winning by nine is not almost losing." I argued this point, but then I watched the game. And SS is right, the U.S. didn't come close to losing. They were scared for a half, and then Carmelo Anthony took over with 29 second half points en route to 35 total.
Did they play great? Oh hell no. Were they horrible in the first half? Oh hell yeah!
The first half was like bizarro half from what we've seen thus far out of Team America. They played selfish one-on-one offense. They couldn't force many turnovers. They shot 63% from the foul line.
To make matters worse, Dwight Howard got hurt. I cringed. I thought about who would rebound the ball now, since to this point no one but Howard seemed to remember rebounding was part of the game.
Italy was not intimidated. They were chippy. They were talking smack. They were leading by 9 at the half. NINE!!
But then Coach K remembered what he'd read here. He remembered my sage wisdom. Suddenly, in Japan a voice in the locker room must have whispered advice:
"Play Wade, LeBron and 'Melo together and all will be fine."
And you know what Coach K did? He played 'Melo, Wade, LeBron, Paul and Brand. Suddenly, Italy's lead was gone, Carmelo was the most prolific one game scorer in USA Basketball history and the U.S. had clinched Group D.
They still have some problems since they can't defend a pick and roll to save their life and at some point in this tournament a team is going to play defense for all four quarters. But a win is a win, and that's all that matters here. They got taken out of their game entirely early and fought back. The '04 team would have crumbled. This team didn't.
Bring on Senegal!
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
USA!! USA!! USA!!
Ho hum, another lopsided win that doesn't seem that lopsided if you're only looking at the final score.
Rule of thumb in my household is when the deficit reaches 30, I start fastforwarding (God bless the DVR! I have no idea how television was watched before this beautiful invention.) Let's just say there was a lot of fastforwarding.
The second quarter seems to be the swing quarter so far for the United States. They added 14 points to their lead during that quarter in this game, and it was in large part due to Dwayne Wade's monster first half.
Chris Paul's assists to turnovers after 3 games: 26 to 3. That's unreal.
Thanks to the beauty of the DVR, I get to watch these games that start at a truly ungodly hour, but the best part is listening to Jim Durham and Fran Fraschilla announce from Bristol at 6:30am. Here was a classic exchange from today's game:
FF: This could be the golden age of USA basketball because our best young players play the game the right way. You look at Wade, LeBron, Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard...you throw Greg Oden in there, the great young center going to Ohio State...
JD: Kobe Bryant.
Uh, JD, maybe it's the early morning hour or maybe it's that you're watching the game just like I am and announcing it, but who in their right mind would argue that Kobe Bryant plays the game the right way? I mean, seriously, that's ridiculous. He plays the game amazingly well, sure, but "the right way" in the Larry Brown sense of the phrase? No. Sorry.
Bring on Italy!!
Sunday, August 20, 2006
USA! USA! USA!
It's beginning to feel a bit like Groundhog Day over here at Nothing But Nylon headquarters.
There isn't a whole lot to breakdown from this one. China was horrible and the U.S. was VERY focused. I knew when Shane Battier scored the first five points of the game that it was going to be a long night for the Chinese.
Here's a pretty simple rule to follow if you're going to play the U.S. Don't turn the ball over, and if you do, play some version of transition defense. China had some trouble in this area, and they were never in the game.
Also, tremendous bounce back effort for D-Wade and Chris Paul.
Bring on Slovenia. Oh boy.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
USA! USA! USA!
The World Championships began with an interesting little game for our beloved U.S. squad. There was an equal amount of good and bad, so let's separate the two into fun little catergories.
- Dwight Howard. He's a monster. It was a good thing they brought him early in this one, because he was the only player doing anything in the 1st quarter for the U.S. Howard was all over the place rebounding, blocking shots, dunking and really just being his phenomenal self. It disturbs me that he's only 20 and is going to get so much better than this.
- Carmelo Anthony. He continues to be the scoring leader on this club. I don't know if it's playing with D-Wade and LeBron or if 'Melo is just feeling it, but he's doing everything right. He got hot offensively in the 2nd quarter doing a little bit of everything, including knocking down open three's, using a wicked post up game on undersized defenders and finishing in transition.
- Coach K's second half lineup. I've been wondering since the exhibition games, when Coach K used somewhere around 50 different lineup combinations, what would happen when these games actually counted. Would K find the right combination of guys to put away a tough opponent? Well, we got our answer in this one. Leading by six to start the second half, the U.S. came out with the following lineup: Wade, Anthony, James, Paul and Howard. In about two minutes, they were up by 16 and the game was headed to garbage time. Coach K really inserted the dagger by bringing the same five on the floor to start the 4th quarter. I've been saying all along that any combo of James, Wade and Anthony on the floor is going to be nearly impossible to beat, and Coach K put them all out there at the same time to swing the momentum in this one.
- 3-point shooting. The U.S. got some strong shooting from Joe Johnson, Kirk Hinrich and Carmelo Anthony. Johnson and Hinrich are going to have constant wide open looks in this tournament, and they knocked them down pretty consistently tonight.
- Perimeter defense. Frankly, I should put this in THE HORRIBLE. Right now, the U.S. should be very happy that Tony Parker is missing the tournament. They made Carlos Arroyo look like, well, international Carlos Arroyo tonight. He killed them in the Olympics, and he killed them tonight. Chris Paul and Kirk Hinrich are going to have to step things up on the defensive end, because with so many other defenders gambling, if they get beaten on the outside then that's going to lead to a lot of easy buckets. In addition, you can tell this team has only been together for three weeks when you watch them play the pick and roll. Arroyo and Daniel Santiago looked like John Stockton and Karl Malone out there.
- Dwayne Wade. Look, no one likes D-Wade more than me. I think he's the best all-around player in the NBA. But, he wasn't good tonight. I'm just going to end it there. I don't like writing negatively about him.
- Bigs. Other than Dwight Howard, I'm not even sure who the "bigs" are on this team. Elton Brand? Chris Bosh? Brad Miller? I guess. I don't remember seeing Brad Miller on the floor, and Bosh and Brand didn't stand out much. These guys will get a big test tonight against Yao Ming. Can they handle it?
So, there you have it. A big opening game victory of the U.S. They looked impressive when they moved the ball offensively, and they have a ton of work on the defensive end. I still think they're the most enjoyable team to watch that I've seen in a long time.
Bring on China!!
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Take that Korea!!!
USA!! USA!! USA!!
Was that the Globetrotters against the Generals? The Rookies vs the Sophomores?
Plain and simple, that got ugly in a hurry for Korea. No surprise that they didn't qualify for the Worlds.
Bill Walton made this hilariously entertaining. Apparently, Korean officials have never seen this Dwayne Wade play basketball since all of the crossing over and spinning has them blowing their whistles constantly. I wasn't aware of this until Bill pointed it out 100 times in the first quarter.
Just a silly tuneup for the US, and now Coach K will need to make a roster move before the 19th. It sure seems as though Bruce Bowen is the odd man out which is a shame since he finally scored a bucket.
Bring on Puerto Rico...again!
Sunday, August 13, 2006
USA! USA! USA!
This was the first game I actually watched start to finish, and I came away with the same opinion I've had all along. If LeBron, 'Melo and Wade are into it, this team won't lose.
The US jumped out to a quick 29-11 advantage after a quarter thanks to the combination of tenacious, swarming, full court defense and the offense of Wade and Anthony. LeBron James hadn't played at this point and that frightened me.
Coach K clearly has the US believing that if they can force turnovers then they're unstoppable, and he's 100% correct. Lithuania never looked composed on the offensive end with hands and bodies constantly flying at them.
Offensively, Wade, James and Anthony are so quick that it's nearly impossible to stop penetration. Coach K used Anthony, Wade, Battier, Bosh and Hinrich on the floor for most of the 1st and 3rd quarters, and the combo delivered. What's great about this roster is that when Wade gets by the initial defender, all he should have to do is kick it out to whoever is wide open for three. Tonight, Anthony was the beneficiary of most passes, finishing with a team high 19 points. Hinrich also showed an ability to hit open looks and had a fine little ballgame.
If you're looking for negatives from this "friendly", I've found two. The first is the team's rebounding. Other than Elton Brand and Dwight Howard, no one on the roster seems interested in bothering. Lithuania had several put backs on missed shots, and should the United States find themselves in a closer game, this could be a problem.
The other negative is minor, but Gilbert Arenas needs to curtail his desire to catch and fire whenever he sees the ball. This team is unbeatable if they penetrate and kick or they move the ball with multiple passes, so Arenas taking 25-foot 3-pointers at the start of a possession will most likely end up getting him cut.
Bring on Korea!
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
USA! USA! USA!
Sure it was only a four point victory, and yeah Carmelo Anthony and possibly Dwayne Wade got hurt, but a win is a win.
On to the topic at hand.
This has not been a good summer for the Pistons.
First they lose Ben Wallace to the Bulls and replace him with Nazr Muhammed. Let's just say Pistons fans are not handling losing the heart and soul of their championship team well.
But how will they feel when they lose the heart and soul of The Palace of Auburn Hills?
From the Willoughby News-Journal:
''The Cleveland Cavaliers will not be extending Ronnie Duncan's contract as our in-game public address announcer for the 2006-07 season,'' Cavaliers president Len Komoroski said in a prepared statement. ''Our agreement with Mr. Duncan was a one-year contract, which expired at the conclusion of the past season. The Cavaliers will launch a search immediately to hire a new announcer.''
I'm seriously not sure which story is more important here. If anyone heard Ronnie Duncan work last year, there's no question he was told to be Mason. If you don't believe me, listen to the difference between a LEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEBRRRRRONNNNNNNNNNNNNN James bucket and a Luol Deng basket ("dang").
With that said, is the bigger story here that the pre-eminent public address announcer in the NBA appears to be a free agent?
Without Mason screaming DEEEEEEEETROITTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT BASKETBALLLLLLL every nine seconds, will the Pistons still have their identity? Is this something they can bounce back from? Will they still be ballerz?
And, not to frighten Piston fans, but what if Mason does go to Cleveland? Is a pairing of LeBron and Mason too much to overcome?
With Ben Wallace already joining Central rival Chicago, and Mason possibly (probably not, but it's fun to think about) heading to Cleveland, what other move could shake the balance of power in division this summer?
There's only one that I can think of off the top of my head.
The Bananas kid heading to Milwaukee.
That would send shockwaves through the league like never before.
Monday, August 07, 2006
Isiah Thomas just can't quit long-term silly contracts. Jared Jeffries as a player is totally fine. He doesn't overwhelm you with greatness, but apparently he's a terrific defender (by the way, when did that happen?). But Zeke, Zeke, Zeke. You shouldn't be allowed to give guys 5-year, $30 million contracts anymore.
Now, the beloved Knicks have to move Quentin Richardson. I can't wait to see where this goes. I am crossing my fingers and hoping for Darius Miles. Please, Blazer nation, let this happen.
As for Team USA, take that China!!! USA, USA, USA!!!!
Oh, have I mentioned that LeBron is good?
Maybe more after I see the highlights, but I make no guarantees.
Friday, August 04, 2006
USA! USA! USA!
It was the "b" team that sparked the victory, and this is certainly an impressive roster, but honestly if Lebron and D-Wade feel like trying in every matchup this team can't be beaten. It's really as simple as that. The Hinrich's and Battier's should ultimately end up doing the little things, but in the grand scheme they're irrelevant.
Bring on China.
The only suspense with USA Basketball right now is whether Kobe will fit in with the "play unselfish" mandate from Coach K. That will be fun.