Tag:international basketball
Posted on: October 11, 2010 1:31 pm

Report: Iverson close to deal to play in Turkey

Posted by Royce Young

According to Marc J. Spears and Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo!, Allen Iverson is moving close to an agreement with the Turkish team Besiktas on a one-year contract that could pay him around $2 million with bonuses.

"We are in very serious negotiations with [Besiktas],” Iverson’s business manager Gary Moore told Yahoo! Sports. “Istanbul is beautiful from everything we’ve learned. It’s not that far from the U.S., and the competition is good which makes it all attractive."

Reportedly, a contract has been sent from Besiktas and now it's in Iverson's hands to sign. But a deal could take as long as 10 days to finalize. The major hang-up was Iverson’s reluctance to let Besiktas fine him beyond 1 percent of his $1.5 million base salary, according to the report.

Iverson had potentially more interesting offers to play in China, but supposedly playing in Istanbul intrigues him. Iverson's last three NBA teams - the Pistons, the Grizzlies and the 76ers - didn't end especially well. That's why he's been forced to look overseas to continue his professional basketball career. Iverson couldn't so much even get a training camp invite from anyone. Plainly put, nobody else wants him.

Besiktas is a pretty high-profile team in Turkey. It's considered one of the three top clubs in Turkey and has a nice fanbase. However, recently the team has been wrapped in financial troubles plus a lawsuit from American player Lonnie Baxter over failure to pay his salary and agent fees. I bet that part sounded awesome to Iverson.

So in other words, have fun in Istanbul, Allen. Here's to hoping this ends well for you.
Posted on: September 29, 2010 10:58 am
Edited on: September 29, 2010 10:59 am

D-League adding in FIBA goaltending rule

Posted by Royce Young

The NBA uses the D-League as a place for young players to work on their game, build up a reputation and at some point, maybe have a chance to be called to the professional level. And the same goes for new rules.

Sometimes, the D-League is used as a place to experiment with new rules to see how they operate in a live professional basketball game. And that's what will happen this season, as the famous FIBA goaltending rule will be brought over to the D-League.

A refresher in case you forgot: The FIBA goaltending rule basically says that once the ball hits the iron, it can be knocked off. In the NBA, if the ball is in the "cylinder" it has to be left there until it either falls off the rim or bounces in. But now, players can jump up and clear the ball off the rim.

As Scott Schroeder of FanHouse mentioned, these rule changes are rumored to have been a request from the NBA as an experiment, possibly similar to the D-League's testing of a new, synthetic basketball before its official use in the NBA for the 2006-2007 season. The new basketball didn't make it very long though in the NBA as NBA commissioner David Stern brought back the traditional leather basketball less than halfway into the season because of complaints from players.

This isn't the first time the NBA has tried this though. The goaltending rule was altered in the D-League in 2005, but that change only lasted one year. Schroeder surmises this change is a response by the NBA to FIBA's institution of a few new NBA-like rules into FIBA internernational play. Secretary general of FIBA, Patrick Baumann, made a comment prior to the World Championships about hoping for the goaltending rule change to come over. And it looks like David Stern gave him his wish. At least in the D-League.

So what to make of the rule change? Most people love the FIBA goaltending rule because it makes for an exciting moment when a player realizes the ball has bounced two or three times and he goes up and clears it. It's like the basketball equivalent of robbing someone of a home run. Though in the NBA where players are far more athletic, it might be difficult for the rule to be as successful because of the nature of playing above the rim. What if the score drops dramatically? What if it slows the game down because of the extra whistles? Or what if there's an extremely controversial call in a big game?

The rule is great in international play because it's kind of this kitschy, but unique rule that adds in interesting dynamic to the FIBA games. But I'm not so sure that it'll work for 82 games a year in the NBA. But hey, that's why they're trying it out in the D-League first.
Posted on: September 12, 2010 5:14 pm

Behind Durant's 28, the USA wins gold over Turkey

Posted by Royce Young

After dropping in his seventh 3-pointer early in the third quarter, Team USA's star backpedaled down the court shaking his hand with three fingers out. It wasn't the Jordan shrug, but Kevin Durant knew he had something going. And he knew his team was closing in on a big moment.

With two daggers right out of the locker room after a massive first half, Durant brok the backs of his opponent early, and he did it swiftly and efficiently. And for the tournament's MVP, anything less would've been a surprise.

In a game in front of one of the most hostile, vocal and rabid atmospheres you'll find anyway, Durant dropped a game-high 28 points on 10-17 shooting (7-13 from 3), leading the United States to its first World Championship gold medal in 16 years with a 81-64 win over host nation Turkey.

And the U.S. had to have Durant to lean on once again. Team USA held a lead from nearly the outset, but it was on the shoulders of the man called Durantula. Consider: In the first half, the U.S. went 6-22 from 3. Durant went 5-9 by himself. So if you do a little math there, that means the rest of Team USA sans Durant went just 1-13 from deep in the first 20 minutes. The team had 42 points and Durant had 20 of them.

Out of the locker room, Durant picked right up where he left off, popping two deep ones to extend out an 18-point lead for the States. But from there, his teammates started to step up. Lamar Odom had 15 points - all in the second half - and 11 rebounds. Derrick Rose finally found his offense scoring eight second half points. Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook added 13 huge points. And that's not including the stellar defense from players like Andre Iguodala and Eric Gordon. It may have been the Durantula Show early on, but the tension relaxed a bit because the rest of the red, white and blue picked things up.

Turkey had no match for Durant on either end. Hedo Turkoglu led the Turks with 16, but after that, no one scored in double-figures. And because of the athletic mismatches the U.S. presented for Turkey, the host nation had to go to a matchup zone for the majority of the game, something Team USA ate up. Well, something that Kevin Durant ate up.

Turkey, known as the "12 Giant Men" to their countrymen, played hard for the entire 40 minutes. They just didn't have the horses. The Turks desperately needed someone to step up huge, but players like Ersan Ilyasova and Omer Asik were held down by a swarming, intense U.S. man-to-man defense.

An underrated aspect of this victory is that the U.S. doesn't have to qualify for the 2012 Olympics during a time where NBA players might not be available because of a lockout. But I can promise you the States' own "12 Giant Men" don't give a darn about that. This is about that thing hanging around their necks. This is about the pride of doing something for your country that others before haven't been able to accomplish in 16 years.

Now this group of 12 will get on a plane and make a long trip home back to the States. Training camp starts in two weeks and by that time, the high from this tournament will have started to wear off. Players will return to their teams and return to their old roles. They'll go back to be the stars and main men for their NBA squad. They'll go back to playing for a city, a fan base or a contract, not their flag. Things will go back to normal, but these last 25 days in Turkey won't be something easily forgotten.

Some may try and kill the buzz by pointing out a the tournament's talent was watered down, that the U.S. is always a favorite and we didn't get anything unexpected or that Turkey wasn't a worthy opponent to play for gold. But it's been 16 years since the United States has heard the Star Spangled Banner at the World Championships. This is something special. And something that these players will always remember being a part of.
Posted on: September 11, 2010 2:09 pm
Edited on: September 11, 2010 2:12 pm

Durant carries Team USA to gold medal game

Posted by Royce Young

It was the blueprint that Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski had set up back in July when Team USA's roster started to take shape. Defend, make open shots, run the floor and most importantly, let Kevin Durant do what Kevin Durant does.

Durant set a U.S. World Championship record for points in a game with 38, as he led Team USA to the gold medal game with a 89-74 win over Lithuania. Durant had 24 at the half and only two in the second with six minutes left in the fourth. But as Lithuania closed in on the U.S. lead, Durant took over.

It was basically an offensive seminar for all in attendance from Durant. He hit 3s. He scored off the drive. He stepped back and hit jumpers. He got to the line. He scored 12 of the American's last 23 points. He was an impossible matchup for anyone Lithuania tossed out and behind Durant, the U.S. never let Lithuania really get too close for comfort.

Lithuania played mostly match up zone in the second half and tried to face guard Durant. It worked for a bit, but when Durant asserted himself and decided to take over, he did.

And while Durant is the the obvious star, the unquestioned MVP, Lamar Odom quietly put together a game that was equally important to Team USA's success. Odom finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks against Lithuania's big front line, but was huge doing extra little things. He tipped out rebounds, got a hand in passing lanes and made a few wonderful passes that led to easy buckets. Odom saved probably his best game of the tournament in one that his team desperately needed him.

Because Lithuania wouldn't go away. After a first half in which they scored on 27 points and shot just 25 percent from the field, the Lithuanians poured in 26 in the third and finished shooting at 39 percent. The 3-pointers started to rain in and at two points Lithuania got the score into single-digits.

But every time Lithuania closed in and started to make things uneasy for the Americans, someone stepped up.

In the first half, with the U.S. up by eight, Lithuania had an open fast break and a heap of momentum. Russell Westbrook closed the gap and stopped the run-out with a wonderful block from behind. The U.S. immediately turned around and hit a 3 after it. In the second half, Lithuania had gotten it to nine. Coach K inserted sharpshooter Eric Gordon who swiftly knocked down a 3 to push the game back to 12. It was a trend we saw all afternoon and something that eventually broke the Lithuanians backs.

One thing that Coach K has done a masterful job of is keeping his players completely focused and energized. In this type of format, you fall asleep for one half or one quarter and it could be deadly. But Team USA has been intense and locked in from the beginning of every game in the knockout round. That's a huge credit to Coach K and one of the things that he does better than any coach in the world.

And it helps when you've got that guy wearing No. 5 in white. He was ready from the tip and was prepared to shoulder the load. Durant has taken this team somewhere it hasn't been since 1994. The gold medal game.

Durant stepped out of his normal humble, soft-spoken character after knocking a dagger 3 that put the U.S. up 18 points with three minutes left. He turned, looked to the vocal Lithuania cheering section, popped the "USA" on his jersey a few times, then gave them a little salute. It was a moment you don't typically see from Durant, but on September 11th with more red, white and blue pumping through his veins than usual, he couldn't hold it in. And it was a moment that probably gave most every American watching chills. KD was feeling it. In more ways than one.

Team USA plays the winner of Serbia and Turkey Sunday in the gold medal game.

Posted on: September 10, 2010 3:30 pm
Edited on: September 10, 2010 3:33 pm

Lithuania stands between Team USA's shot at gold

Posted by Royce Young

It's not the team the United States expected to play in the semifinals. With Argentina rolling behind Luis Scola, there was almost no doubt that a showdown between the 2004 gold medal winners and the U.S. was coming. You could feel the buildup, even on Thursday morning, before Argentina played their quarterfinal game.

Except there was a problem. Argentina still had to play Lithuania. And by all appearances, they totally forgot about that.

Lithuania didn't slip past Argentina a team that was 6-0 going into that game. They didn't squeak by on a couple questionable calls or some uncharacteristic  hot shooting. Lithuania throttled the Argentinians. Like worked them over.

And while it might not be the game most expected in the semifinals of the 2010 World Championships, Lithuania is not someone to look past. If the U.S. didn't learn that lesson from what happened Thursday to Argentina, then Lithuania may do some more sneaking up.

But the U.S. knows this opponent. A little over two weeks ago in a friendly, Team USA defeated Lithuania 77-61 in New York. However, Lithuania held a 15-7 lead after one quarter and after 30 minutes of play, the U.S. only held a 9-point lead. But even since then, this is a Lithuania team that has really hit its stride. So while Team USA is familiar with its next opponent, there is still some studying to do.

How did Lithuania get here?
In group play, Lithuania cruised to a 5-0 record. Well, I shouldn't say cruised. More like scrapped. Their margin of victory in Group D was, 10 points a game. But that's inflated by 18, 13 and 14-point wins over Lebanon, New Zealand and France. Against Canada and Spain, Lithuania won by a total of five combined points.

In the tournament, they defeated China 78-67 in the round of 16 and then Argentina by 19, dropping 104 points on the former gold medal winners.

Who are their best players?
Lithuania is a pretty proud basketball country with a good history of winning and talented players. And one thing about them, is that they're missing some of their finest players. Sarunas Jasikevicius, Darius Songaila and projected lottery pick Donatas Motiejunas are all sitting out.

In Turkey, Lithuania has relied heavily on former Denver Nugget and new Toronto Raptor Linas Kleiza. Currently, Kleiza is averaging 19.1 points per game, good for sixth place at the Worlds. Against Argentina, Kleiza dropped 17 on 7-14 shooting and in the other big games (China, Canada and Spain), Kleiza averaged 21.6 ppg.

Besides him, Lithuania has three players averaging over nine points a game in forwards Jonas Maciulis and Martynas Pocius and guard Mantas Kalnietis.

What did we learn from the first meeting?
Not a whole lot. It was the first friendly for the U.S. against someone other than themselves and everyone looked fairly rusty. Durant went just 4-14 from the floor for 15 points. The two teams turned it over a combined 40 times and both shot right at 40 percent. Neither team opened up the playbook a ton and neither showed a whole lot.

It was clear from that game though that the U.S. held a pretty huge advantage in transition while Lithuania tried to run crisp in halfcourt sets. Lithuania wants to slow down. The U.S. wants to speed up.

How do they match up with the USA?
Not great. Well, not great for their sakes. Team USA is supremely more athletic. Kleiza will likely get the call against Durant, but even still, that's not a good matchup for Lithuania. Their guards will have a great deal of trouble running with Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Eric Gordon and someone like Chauncey Billups might see a million open shots.

Lithuania isn't afraid to zone and that may be what they do against the U.S. for most of the day. The matchups just don't play to their favor in really any way. They do hold a size advantage with nobody under 6'3 plus a guy that's 7'3, but that size differential hasn't affected the U.S. much to this point.

They can score and shoot though. They are sixth in the tournament in scoring per game at 81.9. They are also in the top 10 in rebounding. (The U.S. is first in both categories.) Against Argentina they shot 53 percent from the floor, 12-24 from 3 and had seven players score 12 or more points. So they're well-rounded and can put the ball in the basket.

Can Lithuania win?
Yes. Absolutely. In any tournament, when you're playing a hot team, it's reason for concern. Momentum and confidence is a strange thing in competition.

Other than the Brazil game, this is the first one Americans should actually fear. Russia put up a tough fight but they never had the horses to really make a push to win. While Lithuania doesn't have the matchups, they do have a reliable scorer than can carry them in Kleiza. If Russia had a player like that, they could've posed a much tougher task for the States.

It will likely be a lower scoring affair as Lithuania will try and slow the game down. I imagine it will be a couple possession game in the fourth, though the U.S. should handle business. But Lithuania is hot and they're hitting shots. If they get the 3 rolling like they did against Argentina and Kevin Durant isn't there to bail out Team USA again, it could be a long day for the red, white and blue.
Posted on: September 2, 2010 2:52 pm
Edited on: September 2, 2010 2:59 pm

Lisa Leslie on positionality, playoffs and more

Posted by Royce Young

Lisa Leslie is a four-time Olympic gold medalist, a two-time WNBA champion with the Los Angeles Sparks, a three-time MVP and an eight-time WNBA All-Star. She's also the first WNBA player to ever dunk in a game. So yeah, she had a nice career. She's not only one of the most accomplished female athletes ever, but one of the most accomplished professional athletes period. She's part of a group promoting a new college award and had a chance to talk yesterday a little about where the WNBA is today, the positional revolution and yes, about the Miami Heat too.

CBS Sports: You're one of the most accomplished international basketball players in the world with four gold medals. What's been your take on the World Championships this year and the growth of international ball in general?

Lisa Leslie: I think it's phenomenal. Especially for the USA, our guys are only together for a couple of weeks and then they go out there and compete against other national teams who train together year around. Those teams have more time and more chemistry together and then our USA team comes out trying to stop these guys. 

CBS Sports:
I think by law I have to ask you this: You're one of the all-time greats and with what happened this summer in Miami, what's your perspective as a former superstar player? Would you want to join them or beat them?

Leslie: I think for me, it's a tough call because I think LeBron did what he he thought was best for his career. When you're chasing a championship and you really want to be a legend, you have to win championships in order to have that label. I don't think he thought he could get it done. Me personally, would I have moved? No. I played for L.A. all 13 years and got a chance to win some championships and had the chance to lose some to, but I stayed loyal to where I was.

For him, if that's the best decision for him, he did it and I can respect that because at the same time it's a business and we've seen a lot of organizations move players around and they find out the next day that they're on another team. But at the end of the day, are they going to win this year? No. But I think overall they have a really special team. Dwyane Wade is a phenomenal player and plays really hard. Chris Bosh he is very much underrated and I think people will get a chance to what his skills are. So they're definitely going to be tough to beat.

CBS Sports: Reports have come out that WNBA revenues and corporate sponsorship are up while attendance is down. Is this a glass half full or empty situation here?

Leslie: I definitely think it's half full because we've got great sponsorship this year and good television ratings, but what we could use is a little help from the media, meaning the local media. Maybe showing the WNBA on a daily basis, showing highlights and giving people the option to go out and check out the WNBA teams in their local cities and we don't really have that support right now.

CBS Sports: I don't know if you're familiar with Free Darko, but they had a post up about WNBA, with the example being Lauren Jackson - someone I know you have some history with - about players and appearance on and off the court. They used the examples of Cappie Pondexter and Jackson about how Pondexter has tried to look more ladylike on the court with her style, and Jackson doesn't care about on-court appearance but goes to serious lengths off it with style and even pushing towards sex appeal. What's your take on that sort of thing in women's basketball and women's sports in general? Does trying to look "lady-like" matter?

Leslie: It depends on what type of sex appeal you're talking about. I think it's great for the women to show that they are women and be feminine. And that's something that I've always promoted. I played basketball and had ribbons in my hair and my nails were polished. I started out with what I could control and that's myself and my looks but now in the game, I couldn't really control that. But I'm a huge advocate for looking good while playing good when you step on the court. But in regards to sexuality, that's a whole other topic.

CBS Sports: An interesting topic in the NBA recently has been that of positionality and I think one could make the argument that in 13 years, the WNBA has evolved pretty significantly, especially in terms of talent and versatility. Players like Jackson, Candace Parker, Cappie Pondexter, Tamika Catchings and even yourself all play all over the place and I don't think they really limit themselves to their defined "position". What are you thoughts on positions, especially in terms of the WNBA and how it's evolved there?

Leslie: In actuality, I believe Europe has even been more of a trendsetter than the WNBA. But because most of the WNBA players played overseas, we just learned that a lot earlier. You just don't want to get pigeon-holed into one position. That's why even though I start out at center, I may play small forward, if I get a rebound and you're not there I can bring the ball up. That's because maybe we've had more international experience, I'm pretty sure more than the guys. So with that, I think we learned to be a bit more versatile earlier.

CBS Sports: So what's your take on the WNBA playoffs so far? The Storm are the favorite, but who do have winning?

Leslie: I would have to go with the Storm. They've looked great this year. They remind me a lot of our 2001-02 championship teams with the Sparks. They went undefeated at home which is great. That really helps when you have home court advantage you're more likely to win.

But overall I see Seattle pulling it out. But it's going to be tough to get by Phoenix because they are the defending champs and when Diana [Taurasi] is one, she's on. And then you have to look at New York with Cappie Pondexter who's had the experience of winning as well. It's just exciting basketball. I wish that the American public had more of an opportunity to see it on more of a daily basis throughout the summer so that they could really get behind these teams and these young ladies that are playing exciting and passionate basketball.

CBS Sports: Now you're part of a group promoting a new college award for top performing programs. Talk a little about that.

Leslie: The Capital One Cup is a prestigious new honor that's rewarding NCAA Division I athletic programs for their cumulative on-field performance across multiple men's and women's sports. But what's exciting about this program will also help raise awareness for those sports that don't usually get as much attention.

But it really comes down to the ultimate prize of bragging rights. You want to walk away with this Capital One Cup. And obviously I'm from USC so I'm really pulling for SC or the Pac-10. We're always going against the Bruins, so we want to make sure we get that trophy.

But also, other than just the trophy, they win $200,000 worth of graduate level scholarships for the student athletes. We're excited about that also because we know that not everyone is going pro after college so to have the opportunity to get that money towards scholarships is an awesome idea.

Be sure to visit www.capitalonecup.com to check out the new program that is rewarding college athletes and their respective programs.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com