Tag:2010 World Championships
Posted on: September 12, 2010 5:13 pm
 

Odom, Billups deserve to be rewarded

The revelation of the world championships, quite obviously, was Kevin Durant. He did everything for Team USA -- did exactly what was required of a blossoming superstar who was asked to put his imprint on the world basketball stage.

So without a doubt, Durant will be suiting up for the 2012 Olympics in London, when some of the divas who passed on Turkey will be back to defend the gold medal attained by the Redeem Team in Beijing two years ago. But what became plainly apparent Sunday, as the United States ended a 16-year drought in the FIBA worlds by beating Turkey 81-64 for the gold medal, is that not all of those '08 Olympians will be assured of getting their spots back.

Far from it.

It's widely assumed that three spots will be available: those belonging to Jason Kidd, Tayshaun Prince and Michael Redd. So as I plan out Mike Krzyzewski's Olympic roster before Team USA even gets to the airport, I say those spots should go to Durant, Lamar Odom and Chauncey Billups.

When the Americans left U.S. soil as underdogs to Spain in the eyes of many, I felt that however this tournament played out, Odom and Billups deserved spots on the team for London. As good as Durant was, it's impossible to dismiss the championship pedigree Odom and Billups brought to this otherwise woefully inexperienced team. If nothing else, Odom and Billups deserve a spot as a reward for taking one for the country this summer. They stepped up and gave Jerry Colangelo and Coach K their commitments at a time when LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were too busy working on their Twitter accounts, and while Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony were occupied with trying to get traded.

As far as tangible contributions, Billups didn't shine during the tournament. But no one should have a problem with him getting the Jason Kidd memorial roster spot in London for his experience and for his trouble this summer. As for Odom, who was brilliant in the gold-medal game with 15 points and 11 rebounds -- including a flurry of putbacks, 3-pointers and work-ethic baskets in the fourth quarter -- he earned a spot regardless. My pal Gregg Doyel still thinks Odom is a lackadaisical yo-yo ; I've always thought he was wrong about that, and that much was proven beyond any doubt in this tournament. Odom was huge for the U.S. It was no coincidence that the Naismith Trophy was handed first to Odom and Billups Sunday in Istanbul. They earned it. American basketball is all about pecking order, and they were right at the top of it, where they belonged.

But this so-called "B-Team" so far exceeded expectations from spots 1-12 that there will be precious little room for sentimentality when Colangelo and Krzyzewski assemble the Olympic roster in two years. Let's say I'm right and you start with Durant, Odom and Billups joining '08 Olympians James, Wade, Anthony, Paul, Kobe Bryant, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams. How do you make room for Derrick Rose (which Colangelo must)? How do you ignore the versatility and defensive intangibles offered by Russell Westbrook (which Colangelo shouldn't)? How do you snub Blake Griffin and Tyreke Evans (you probably can't)? What if John Wall is as good as we think he is (which he is)? What if Rajon Rondo wants to play (which he should)?

As the adage goes, these are some good problems for the Americans to have. A few short years after the embarrassment of bronze medals at the 2006 world championships and 2004 Olympics, USA Basketball is back. It was back in Beijing two summers ago with the Redeem Team. But really, this B-Team should be -- and will be -- remembered for driving home the point.

At a time when reputations and gold medals were on the line, the biggest American stars in the sport took a pass. Those who showed up and got the job done should be rewarded. More than a few, I predict, will be.

 
 

 

Posted on: August 15, 2010 4:41 pm
 

Examining the flawed Team USA roster

NEW YORK -- There was more room on the bench Sunday for Team USA's lone exhibition game on American soil as Jerry Colangelo and his staff settled on the first cuts before paring the roster to 12 for the World Championships. JaVale McGee and Jeff Green were the easy decisions. Now comes the tough one.

Not much could be read into the U.S. team's 86-55 rout of France at Madison Square Garden, other than the fact that Tony Parker is on vacation. That's what he said, anyway, when he was approached by several reporters on the court after the final buzzer and explained why he wasn't talking to the media.

But a glimpse of the chemistry and personality of this star-starved U.S. team that will venture to Madrid Monday for its next round of preparation for the games in Turkey did begin to emerge during a week-long training camp in New York, capped by Sunday's rout of a French team featuring four NBA players (Boris Diaw, who apparently is on the Eddy Curry diet; Nicolas Batum; Ian Mahinmi and Alexis Ajinca) plus the brother of another one (Florent Pietrus).

Coach Mike Krzyzewski used a starting lineup of Tyson Chandler (the only true center on the roster), Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Rajon Rondo and Chauncey Billups. It's all obviously a work in progress, so I can't quibble with it too much. I guess if you only have one center, he has to start. But if Coach K wanted to get creative -- especially against undersized opponents -- I think replacing Chandler with Lamar Odom and Iguodala with Rudy Gay would be a lineup that would do some damage. In fact, the group that built the biggest lead of the game to that point, 37-28 with 1:56 left in the second quarter, featured Odom and Gay with Rondo, Iguodala and Durant. They did it by taking advantage of the two most obvious strengths this team has: defense and athleticism.

The starters used that blueprint to open up a 19-point lead midway through the third, getting a block from Durant, a steal from Iguodala, and two 3-pointers from Billups before getting substituted for en masse. In came Rose, Gay, Odom, Danny Ganger and Eric Gordon, who stayed on the floor until Kevin Love subbed for Odom with the U.S. leading by 24, 70-46.

Coach K obviously is searching for combinations that work; as the old saying goes, LeBron, D-Wade and Carmelo aren't walking through that door. But whatever Krzyzewski decides to do with the final cut, the following personality appears to be emerging for Team USA: the Americans' best chance to medal in Turkey will be to defend and rebound as a team, ride the championship experience of Billups, Odom and Rondo, and create a small-ball second unit that can catch an opponent on its heels for key stretches fueled by defense and transition baskets.

But don't forget one key ingredient: 3-point shooting. It's invaluable in international play, especially for a team with as little size as the U.S. And it might just be the reason that Gordon, Stephen Curry and Danny Granger make the team and Russell Westbrook doesn't. Gordon is a spot-up shooter, while Curry can get his shots off the dribble and also give you on-ball defense and raise the tempo a notch when needed. So while the final spot seemed destined to come down to Gordon vs. Curry, it's conceivable that both of them make it. Westbrook, a luxury on a point-guard heavy roster, looks to me like the odd man out. He was the last guy to check into the game Sunday, and that means something -- considering that McGee and Green didn't get off the bench Saturday in a scrimmage against China.

"I think this group is a real good group," Krzyzewski said. "Intangible-wise, it's off the charts with attitude, teamwork, 'I'll do anything,' all that. Let's start there. That's a good place to start."

Krzyzewski wouldn't commit to a timetable to making the final cut, which must be done by Aug. 26 -- two days before the tournament begins in Istanbul. So there's plenty of time for Westbrook to play himself back into the picture, or for Curry, Gordon or Granger to play themselves out of it. Chances are, with an exhibition game in Madrid against tournament favorite Spain on Aug. 22, the U.S. will lose a game before it loses a player.


Category: NBA
Posted on: August 13, 2010 3:06 pm
 

Team USA: Who's on the bubble?

GREENBURGH, N.Y. – Team USA leaves Monday for Madrid, and there may be a couple of extra passengers on board.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski said after practice at the Knicks’ training center Friday that he may only make one of the three remaining cuts – or none at all – before the team travels overseas for its next round of preparation for the World Championships.

“We may make some – you know, a couple, one – before we leave,” Coach K said. “We may not. Each day’s a little bit different. We don’t have pay our taxes before April 15. We’re one of those groups right now in that we may wait until April 15 – or August 25 or whatever it is – when we’ll make that final decision. If we make it along the way, that’ll be cool. It’ll be when we feel comfortable. As long as the guys are doing what they’re doing, I think it’s beneficial to everybody to have patience.”

On the bubble appear to be two big men (JaVale McGee and Jeff Green) and two guards (Eric Gordon and Stephen Curry). In a perfect world, Krzyzewski would take the players who have performed the best in training camp this summer, but the team already is at a serious size disadvantage after losing Amar’e Stoudemire (over difficulty insuring his contract) and Brook Lopez (who had mononucleosis). Krzyzewski and his coaching staff have to weigh whether they can afford to bring an inexperienced big man like McGee to Turkey when the world games begin Aug. 28 simply as a 7-foot insurance policy. Green provides size, but at 6-9, he doesn’t provide enough of it to warrant taking a spot from a shooter.

Curry, who gives Team USA ball-handling and play-making in addition to 3-point shooting, appears to have a clear advantage over Gordon. Danny Granger, who dislocated his right ring finger in practice this week, also isn’t a lock.

Krzyzewski isn’t saying who’s on the bubble and who isn’t, and that’s partially because he wants to see how the roster functions against actual competition this weekend. The U.S. team will scrimmage China on Saturday at Madison Square Garden before returning to MSG Sunday for an exhibition game against France.

“The next two days, international rules, international teams, officials, we’re going to see something,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re going to see something about our team and [about] how we want to finally pick our team.”

The starting lineup appears set with Lamar Odom, Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, Chauncey Billups and Derrick Rose. What combinations work best off the bench will crystallize once the team begins facing competition this weekend.

“You’re going to do something around Durant,” Coach K said. “The two guys at center are going to be there; Lamar and Tyson. There’s certain things that are going to be there that allow all these other guys to fit in. Can we rebound, can we play defense if we go too small? There’s some tradeoffs. It will not be a clear cut decision.”
Category: NBA
Posted on: August 10, 2010 7:02 pm
 

Candidates selling Melo in pursuit of Knicks job

NEW YORK -- We're barely a month removed from the biggest free-agent feeding frenzy in NBA history, and already the next wave has begun.

The Knicks' controversial attempt to hire Isiah Thomas as a consultant hasn't dissuaded candidates from pitching themselves as the right man for a job that team president Donnie Walsh has left vacant since he was hired two years ago -- a day-to-day GM who eventually would succeed him. The latest twist, according to sources familiar with the situation, has potential candidates angling to present themselves to Walsh and Garden chairman James Dolan as the man who is capable of delivering Carmelo Anthony as a free agent next summer.

The overtures have fallen on deaf ears with Walsh for two reasons, sources say: 1) Walsh has yet to receive clearance to hire a general manager to handle the day-to-day basketball operations, and 2) The respected, 69-year-old executive has grown tired of the free-agent recruitment game and the dishonest pitches that invariably come with it.

Walsh's desire to decompress from the untoward free-agent hysteria, however, didn't stop Dolan from hiring Thomas -- who was ousted and replaced by Walsh and coach Mike D'Antoni in 2008 -- as a consultant whose primary duty will be to recruit free agents. Sources say the hiring may very well be struck down by the NBA, which has strict rules against team employees having contact with high school, college and international players not yet eligible for the NBA draft.

Thomas positioned himself to return to the Knicks by convincing Dolan that he played an important role in the team landing free-agent power forward Amar'e Stoudemire this summer. The Knicks struck out on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and decided they needed someone with Thomas' clout to ensure it wouldn't happen again.

But Thomas isn't the only current or former NBA executive trying to tout himself as the man who can persuade Anthony, a free agent next summer, to join Stoudemire with the Knicks. Part of that strategy, sources say, includes efforts on the part of at least one candidate to pitch himself to Creative Artists Agency -- the firm that represents Anthony -- as an addition to the Knicks' front office who could bring Anthony with him.

Walsh has had it on the back burner for some time to hire a lead assistant with a big enough profile -- and substantial enough resume -- to replace him when he retires. Such a move would create a rare spasm of continuity for an organization that had known nothing but change and turmoil prior to Walsh's hiring two years ago. Strong indications within the organization this summer have pointed to former player Allan Houston being groomed as Walsh's successor. Houston impressed Dolan and other team officials with his performance in an expanded role during the free-agency period this summer.

Walsh is two years into a four-year contract, and the Knicks must decide by March 31, 2011 whether to guarantee the final year of the deal.

Anthony, an ideal fit for the Knicks, already has told confidants this summer that he's eager to explore playing in New York. His dilemma is whether to turn down a three-year, $65 million extension offer from the Nuggets with only 10 months left in the current collective bargaining agreement. The new deal is expected to be much less lucrative for players. Sources say owners who were rattled by this summer's free-agent frenzy -- orchestrated by CAA, which represented James, Wade and Chris Bosh -- are determined to clamp down not only on player salaries in the new agreement, but also player movement.

Anthony's desire to play in New York is so strong, sources say, that those close to the three-time All-Star have scoffed at the efforts of executives touting themselves as being able to deliver him.

"Carmelo already wants to play in New York," one person with knowledge of his plans told CBSSports.com. "He doesn't need anybody to bring him there. He's a gunslinger. That situation is perfect for him."

Anthony's teammate, Chauncey Billups, said after Team USA practice Tuesday that he still doesn't know whether Anthony will sign the extension or test the free-agent waters next summer.

"If I was a betting man? I don’t know," Billups said. "Of course, I'm biased because I'm playing on the team that he’s playing on. But I'm optimistic that he’s going to come back and play for the Nuggets. I know he loves the city. Shoot, he’s been there since he was 20 years old. So I'm optimistic, but I don’t know. I wish I did, but I don’t."



Posted on: August 10, 2010 6:06 pm
Edited on: August 10, 2010 7:13 pm
 

Boeheim: Isiah's Knicks deal 'doesn't make sense'

NEW YORK -- Three members of the Team USA coaching staff weighed in Tuesday on the Knicks' controversial hiring of Isiah Thomas as a consultant, with Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim saying it crossed a line that shouldn't be crossed.

"If it’s good one place, then it’s good anywhere," Boeheim said after the U.S. men's national team scrimmaged on the city's West Side in preparation for the upcoming FIBA World Championships in Turkey. "You throw all that out there, and it wouldn’t be good. It doesn’t make much sense to me. I just don’t think it’s a good thing."

Krzyzewski, head coach of the U.S. team that opened a week-long training camp in New York, was more measured in his opinions on the Knicks' decision to employ Thomas, a former team president and currently an NCAA head coach at Florida International. Saying Thomas is his friend, Krzyzewski stopped short of saying the arrangement was unseemly, but made it clear that it wasn't something he'd do.

But the coach with the largest crowd of reporters around him was the Knicks' Mike D'Antoni, a Team USA assistant who will not be traveling to Turkey as he treats a back problem. D'Antoni struggled to put a positive spin on the return of Thomas to the organization that ousted him after an embarrassing tenure as both team president and coach. Aside from the obvious conflict of interest -- and strong possibility that the hiring is a violation of NBA rules -- some have painted Thomas' return as a reflection of how Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan views the performance of D'Antoni and team president Donnie Walsh.

Several times during an interview session with reporters on the practice court at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, D'Antoni repeated that Thomas' vaguely defined role within the Knicks' hierarchy is "not my area." D'Antoni said he learned of the decision "like everybody else" -- in a news release distributed Friday by the Knicks.

"He is a Hall of Famer and he’s one of the top 50 players in the game and he has a lot of credibility out there," D'Antoni said. "Donnie is very smart to be able to tap into him when he needs him, and if it’s an advantage to the Knicks, we’ll use it. That’s about all there is. There’s not a whole lot else to it."

Asked if the Knicks' attempt to bring Thomas back into the power structure from which he was ousted only two years ago reflected poorly on Walsh's standing with Dolan, D'Antoni said, "Donnie is running the show. He’s made some unbelievable moves up til now and we’ve got a nice young team coming on. I hate all the hoopla on the other end, but we should be focused on the upcoming season. That’s kind of what I’m focused on."

Dolan's decision to re-employ Thomas, according to sources, stemmed from the team's disappointing recruitment of top free agents this summer. After the team fell short in its pursuit of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade -- who united with Chris Bosh in Miami -- some elements within the organization became convinced that the team needed someone of Thomas' stature as a Hall of Fame player to close the deal with future free agents Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul or Tony Parker. Thomas, in fact, sold himself to Dolan as having played an important role in the Knicks' signing of Amar'e Stoudemire and also secured an 11th-hour meeting with James' representatives in a failed attempt to steer him to the Knicks.

But even if the Knicks attempted to narrowly define Thomas' role simply as a free-agent recruiter, sources have told CBSSports.com that the arrangement will nonetheless have a difficult time withstanding the test of the NBA rulebook. The league's constitution and by-laws explicitly forbid any NBA coach, scout, executive or consultant from having contact with draft-ineligible players -- an obvious requirement of an NCAA coach's job. League officials and lawyers are in the process of reviewing the legality of Thomas' hiring.

Boeheim, whose Syracuse team famously lost the 1987 NCAA championship game to Thomas' alma mater, Indiana, on Keith Smart's game-winning shot, doesn't need lawyers to tell him the arrangement makes no sense.

"You would maybe understand it if it was a guy that was retired and had tremendous success in the NBA and won something -- anything," Boeheim said. "And somebody said, 'Well, why don’t you just give us your sense of things.' I could see that. But I can't see this."


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com