Tag:Luis Scola
Posted on: December 8, 2010 11:22 am
Edited on: December 8, 2010 11:36 am
 

Game Changer 12.8.10: Elbow trouble

Dirk and his elbow, surprising guards, and Monroe exists, all in today's Game Changer.  Posted by Matt Moore

Each game is made up of elements which help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the night before's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what lead to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.

THE BIG ONE: David Lee STILL HAS ELBOW PROBLEMS

While the Dallas bench was doing its thing , the Warriors managed to stay in this one with turnovers leading to fast breaks. Or, basically, your standard Warrior plan of attack. But when the Mavericks absolutely had to get buckets? They turned to Dirk Nowitzki. Either with his elbow, or at the elbow.

Example A:



What you'll notice here is that Nowitzki's able to create space with his shooting elbow, which is kind of insane. It's the post-fake that gets David Lee shook trying to recover, but on the step-back through, he brings that elbow up and through, with his forearm creating kind of a stone wall between Lee's recovery attempt and a block. Granted, Nowitzki being seven feet tall helps quite a bit, but that perfect elbow placement is part of it.

Example 2: 



And again, we see Nowitzki stepping back into Lee, freezing him. By the time Lee recognizes what's happening, Dirk's elbow is already in place, again, creating a barrier between he and Lee. You've got to body Nowitzki in order to defend it, and bodying Nowitzki means you're probably fouling him. This is why he's Dirk.

And finally, in crunch time:



Forget for a moment that Jason Terry successfully screens two Warriors defenders. When Nowitzki receives this pass, he's at that elbow sweet spot. But he doesn't have to disturb his placement at all when the pass comes in. The movement is one fluid process. Step out to receive the pass, catch the ball, swing the other leg back to square up, rise, and release.

Perfect.

You know what keeps Dirk Nowitzki as good as he is at 32? Precision. 

GO-GO-GADGET LINE OF THE NIGHT:

Josh Smith: 34 points on 14-16 shooting, 7 assists, 3 rebounds (weird), 1 steal, 2 blocks in 38 minutes.

Runners-Up:

Luis Scola: 35 points, 12 rebounds, 1 block

Pau Gasol: 21 points, 14 rebounds, 8 assists

WHAT YOU MISSED: 

SURPRISING GUARDS SURPRISING

Some underrated guards had a few nice games last night:
  • D.J. Augustin has developed a solid sense of when to pull up for a three. A lot of guards are unsure and are constantly trying to figure out when to shoot and when not to. Augustin though, has a good sense of when the defense is sagging and when the shot is in the flow of the offense. He doesn't leave his rebounders out to dry while they're trying to establish position. 
  • Kyle Lowry has been pretty ridiculous lately. His three-point shot, which has been pathetic until this season, has all of a sudden started dropping. His perimeter speed is creating a fair amount of steals and in transition he's becoming quite the guard. With Aaron Brooks on the shelf, the Rockets are getting back into contention, slowly but surely, because of Lowry's particular abilities. 
  • Devin Harris struggled with his shot last night, but he did manage to run the offense reasonably well. He understands Lopez better than any other player in the league and has an innate sense of where the offense runs. 

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Stephen Curry has a ridiculous set of fakes to his arsenal, particularly while on the move with the ball. He's got fakes within fakes within fakes. Last night he used about five of them on a baseline drive that absolutely froze Shawn Marion, allowing an easy reverse under the basket.

Greg Monroe is alive! 7 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks for the young'n which isn't much, but he also looked more confident in 25 minutes against the Rockets. Good signs for a Pistons team that needs some element of hope.

Luis Scola has a remarkable ability to shoot directly from wherever he lands on an offensive rebound. He snares the ball, then goes right back up in a hook.
Posted on: December 2, 2010 1:08 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2010 1:49 pm
 

Ron Artest calls Houston radio show as Luis Scola

Posted by Royce Young

I started to list out all the things Ron Artest has done over the past few years to try and illustrate how crazy awesome he is. That list got long fast. So instead of trying and compile it, just know that his most recent stunt is definitely ranked highly on the list.

Following the Lakers loss to the Rockets Wednesday night, Artest called in to a Houston postgame show (click the link to listen). Not to defend himself or to talk about the game. Nah, he just wanted to pretend to be Luis Scola.

Artest used a really weak accent that went in and out and just seemed to try and talk faster to imitate Scola. But here's a few of the best things he said:
  • “I think I’m the best player in the world and no one can stop me. I feel like I’m like Shaq. I feel like I’m the best.”
  • "I feel like I am the best around, in the world. You see the guys that couldn’t even hold me. They tried guarding me and they couldn’t. I just had the hook shot — that right hook shot — they can't stop it.”
  • When Chuck Hayes was mentioned: "Actually Chuck Wagon he didn’t play with any boxers on today. He said he wanted to play and just play hard. He had nooo boxers on tonight. No Spandex. He play freeballing. So he was a warrior tonight and we won it. The Rockets are back.”
  • When asked how he'll celebrate the win: "I’ll celebrate, just go eat some Spanish food. And, uh, just eat Spanish food, I think.”
Artest played with Scola and the Rockets before he signed with the Lakers before last season. So obviously he's got pre-existing relationships with Scola and Hayes and a bunch of those guys. And probably the postgame host too.

I love players that don't take things too seriously so as you might imagine, I enjoy Ron Artest very much. I'm ready for him to release a video imitating every player in the NBA. I would imagine his Timofey Mozgov is SPOT ON.

Via Deadspin

Posted on: October 27, 2010 1:55 am
Edited on: October 27, 2010 2:38 am
 

Lakers' poise overcomes Rockets' hard work

Lakers overcome tough contest by Rockets thanks to Shannon Brown as Kobe struggles from the field.
Posted by Matt Moore

The Rockets worked hard. They hustled. They shot well. They drove, and dished. They gave up offensive boards, but they worked on defense. They forced Kobe Bryant into a hard night. They gave everything they had for three quarters.

And it only took one quarter for the Lakers to show why they're the champs. After the Rockets led by as many as 15 in the second half, the Lakers made a furious comeback behind an explosive performance from Shannon Brown, then iced it with a Steve Blake three with less than twenty seconds to go. Brown went ballistic in the third with a barrage of threes and finished with 16 points. With one last possesion and less than ten seconds, Steve Blake made a terrific defensive stop on Aaron Brooks under the basket and the Lakers walked out with a 112-110 win.

Take a look at Shannon Brown's shot chart from our CBSSports.com GameTracker :



The Rockets had solid performances from Kevin Martin in the loss, with 26 points. Aaron Brooks, outside of that last possession, was also brilliant with 24 points and 9 assists. The key for the Rockets? Turnovers. 19 turnovers to LA's 11.

Yao Ming was held to his 24-minute limit, fouling out in the 24th minute, exactly. That's one way to get the most for your minutes. Yao was great early, fighting off Pau Gasol and grabbing rebounds, but Lamar Odom decided to show for LA, and when that happens, they're impossible to stop. 14 points, 10 rebounds for the Space Cadet, and a 112-110 win for the Lakers.

Kobe Bryant was 8 of 20 from the field for 27 points, but did have 5 rebounds and 7 assists. More on #24 in tomorrow's GameChanger.


Posted on: September 23, 2010 4:38 pm
 

Preseason Primer: Houston Rockets

Posted by Matt Moore

The Rockets finally have Yao Ming healthy. They finally have Tracy McGrady out of their hair. They finally have the pieces together to make another run. But can any of the pieces fit together? Are they really as dangerous as everyone says they are? Does speaking in rhetorical questions make you want to read this, our next selection in our Preseason Primers ? Let's find out as we talk about the Rox.


Training camp site: Houston, TX (Hidalgo, TX in early October)

Training camp starts: September 25th

Key additions: Brad Miller (free agent), Courtney Lee (trade), Patrick Patterson (draft)

Key subtractions: Trevor Ariza (trade), David Andersen (trade)

Likely starting lineup:
Aaron Brooks (PG), Kevin Martin (SG), Shane Battier (SF), Luis Scola (PF), Yao Ming (C)

Player to watch:
Patrick Patterson. Assuming the Rox don't go all nuts and acquire Carmelo Anthony during camp, their starting lineup is pretty well set. But Patterson is a rookie who comes out of that ridiculous Kentucky class and could wind up being the kind of flex player that makes a big impression on Rick Adelman. He's versatile, strong, has a good mid-range, and can work inside of a complex offense. He's got a great opportunity to make an impact for the Rockets during camp.


Chemistry quiz:
The Rockets have seemed like a team that's liked one another for years. They hung together when Yao Ming went down, and their samurai-like approach last year was noble, even if it fell short. Basically, even without the star talent you need to win in this league, the Rockets were the team you didn't want to run into in a dark alley. They were tough, gritty, and hung together. The addition of Kevin Martin, trying to reassert himself as a premier player in this league could cause issues, and there's no telling if the same goodwill will maintain with as many changes as the Rockets have made in the past two years. But the core elements are in place, and the tone of camp should be fun and focused, instead of contentious and tense. Not having solified expectations due to Yao's injury should help with manners as well.


Camp battles:
Small forward was set to be a huge battle but promising second year man Chase Budinger tweaked an ankle and won't be able to battle old man Battier for the slot left open by Trevor Ariza's departure. Jermaine Taylor, Courtney Lee, and Jared Jeffries should have a good one for the backup role behind Martin. Jordan Hill vs. Patterson should make for a nice one as well, with Hill's scrap versus Patterson's finesse providing contrast in style.

Injury issues:
Budinger's ankle is significant, but other than that the Rockets seem really healthy and don't have any pro...OH, YEAH. Yao Ming is coming back from an injury that's held him out for a year and a half and is trying to just stay on the floor while the rest of the team holds its breath everytime his feet leave the ground. camp.

Biggest strength:
Doin' work. The Rockets put in a full effort every night, a testament to both the roster assembled and Rick Adelman's job. They lacked an identity last year without Yao, but it did help them to adjust to whatever they faced. The Rockets can get out and run, or grind it out. They're really best when they're doing both. They'll battle for every loose ball and every player knows his role. It's a strong team they've put together.

Glaring weakness:
Three point shooting. Brooks isn't an efficient shooter. Martin's three point shooting dropped off a cliff last season. Budinger can shoot, but the rest of the team isn't great from the arc, including backup point guard Kyle Lowry.
Posted on: September 8, 2010 9:20 am
 

Shootaround 9.8.10: Super Scola

Posted by Royce Young
  • Luis Scola was a one man wrecking crew yesterday against Brazil. He finished with 37 points and scored six in the closing minutes for Argentina. He was so good, he got his general manager to tweet, "Scola goes into video game god mode to finish off Brazil. Wow."
  • Jason Friedman of Rockets.com on Scola's performance: "Having watched him for three years now, Rockets fans know the truth: Scola is simply passion personified. He loves the game. Loves the competition. Loves the challenge of improving himself every day. The Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen once wrote that Scola is the walking, talking embodiment of every fan’s ideal: that if we, too, were able to compete at the world’s highest level, we would do so with the sort of passion and professionalism Scola displays on a daily basis. 99.999 percent of us play the game we love for free. If every professional basketball league on the planet were to suddenly dissolve, rest assured Luis Scola would play gratis, too. And he’d do so with a giant smile on his face."
  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star looking at Team USA's added incentive against Russia: "If the United States is looking for any extra motivation as the quarter-finals of the world basketball championships unfold, the players can look back on one of the darkest moments in the international history of the sport in that country, to a time before any of them were born. It was at the 1972 Munich Olympics, in one of the most storied games in international basketball history, that Russia beat the United States in a gold-medal game marred by a replayed finish that had all the stench of a pre-ordained result."
  • Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! looking at the same thing: "Thirty-eight years later, all the hate and acrimony between the Americans and Russians is gone on the basketball court. They used to look across the floor and wonder what in the world they had in common. All those Eastern European states – Serbia, Croatia and Lithuania – gobbled up the best players, and Russian basketball is left fighting for its identity, its soul, its future. Chicken fingers and potato skins in the shadows of the Ottoman Empire and Sea of Marmara — yes, the final victims of American sporting capitalism have paid a steep price."
  • Charles Barkley had a history of demanding trades and potentially chasing rings. Yet, he continues to rip on LeBron for the same things. Matt Bunch of Hot Hot Hoops looks at it: "So what’s the end result? Let your biases be known. Identify you’re being hypocritical, and explain why your present-day view is right and your past one is wrong. I don’t think anyone is clamoring for ideological rigidity from Trent Dilfer or Mark Schlereth or Charles Barkley, but if you’re going to say something that will figuratively make the listening audience’s ears bleed, preface it (or follow it) with an explanation of why you just said that thing. It’s the least you can do; we’re not stupid."
  • Could Chris Bosh's departure lead to Andrea Bargnani's breakout? RaptorsRepublic looks: "Maybe it’s a psychological thing with him, Bosh’s departure might not open up space on the court, but it could in his mind? Huh? Or maybe it’s simply a matter of hoisting more shots? Perhaps 14.3 FGAs a game doesn’t cut it for him and if he ups that he’ll be more interested in playing defense and will be more comfortable making plays for others. I’m clutching at straws here, but any way one looks at it, the burden of proof of whether Bargnani can become the player he was touted to be rests solely on him, not anyone else. It is no-one’s “fault” that he’s been under-performing except his. The coming season presents a different opportunity for Bargnani to excel, not necessarily a better one."
Posted on: August 31, 2010 2:43 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2010 2:48 pm
 

Pop Quiz: Can the Rockets jell?

Posted by Matt Moore

Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell ... The NBA season is right around the corner, and NBA training camp starts in just a few short weeks. To get you ready for the NBA season, we've put together 25 pop quizzes. Pencils ready? We continue our Pop Quizzes with this question..

Can the Rockets jell?


Normally the year after you lose one of your biggest stars is supposed to be a tough one to swallow. But the Rockets are liberated after losing Tracy McGrady, and have put that cap space to good use. Tack on the return of their other star in Yao Ming, and the Rockets have high hopes for 2010. They only added three players of note, Courtney Lee via the Trevor Ariza trade, Brad Miller in free agency, and Patrick Patterson in the draft. But those players combined with the assets they picked up through trade last season and the return of Yao Ming are what make people so high on the Rockets.

The Rockets built a roster based on versatility last season but injuries left them scraping things together, and in the meantime, their primary lineup didn't produce as expected. As a result, GM Daryl Morey went even further towards the versatility approach. The trade of Trevor Ariza was the most controversial, essentially starting over after only a year with Ariza. When we look at the lineups, though, that doesn't sound so crazy.

You always have to take plus/minus with a grain of salt, but there are circumstances where you can notice specific outliers. The Rockets lineups are such an example. The Rockets' three most-often used lineups (via 82games.com) all featured Ariza at small forward, and were a combined -19. That's in contrast to their fourth, fifth, and sixth most used lineups (all over 100 minutes), which were a combined +91. That's a big number. It's not conclusive, but it does provide some evidence for why the Rockets elected to ship him out for a backup shooting guard best remembered for a missed alley-oop in the Finals.

Kevin Martin was the other significant acquisition. The Rockets were able to snag Martin at the trade deadline after an injury plagued season was compounded by his inability to gel with Tyreke Evans. Martin wasn't bad with the Rockets but he was far from the instant fix-all for their problems and they lost steam (again with the injuries) down the stretch. But he and Aaron Brooks seemed to be finding their way, despite both of them being heavy usage players.

So the big question for the Rockets isn't one of talent, it's one of chemistry.

"" Yao Ming has been away from the practice floor since May of 2009. Kevin Martin has been with the team only two months of actual playing time. Courtney Lee is completely new. Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry just received new contracts. Jordan Hill is a newcomer, still settling in. Patrick Patterson is a rookie. Brad Miller just hopped on board. And for a team that relies on ball movement and separation like Rick Adelman's, this is a dangerous approach to trying to throw it all together.

Luckily, egos seem to be sparse in the locker room. Kevin Martin is certainly going to want his chances to score, and he'll get them. There's enough to go around. The rest of the team is largely filling in the gaps. Luis Scola should get a step back since he won't be guarding or guarded by centers with Ming on the floor, and Chase Bundinger and Lee give the team versatility and shooting. Shane Battier is the leader and prime example of the sacrifice this team will need to instill as a virtue in order to make a run in the West. This is not a case of any one player shouldering the load. Morey and Adelman have built a system based on depth and versatility, and they need to use that, exploiting matchups and tendencies where they can.

The addition of Yao cannot be understated. This was a dogged, tenacious, well-balanced team last year that struggled due to injuries and a lack of size. Yao provides them depth (vaunted post-defender Chuck Hayes is now third string behind Brad Miller), unparalleled post offense and defense, and a focal point for the perimeter cuts to work around. He's a willing and able passer, and even Miller works well in the pinch post with those wings slashing around. Consider all the perimeter shooter/slashers they have to work around their bigs:

Aaron Brooks (39.8% from the arc, 47% on 3pt attempts in hand-off situations)
Kevin Martin (44% in spot-up situations)
Chase Budinger (37% 3pt, 40% as a spot-up three-point shooter)
Courtney Lee
Kyle Lowry
Jermaine Taylor

And here are their mid-range defenders:
Shane Battier
Jared Jeffries (.84 points per possession allowed defensively, allowing only 39.2% from the floor)
Patrick Patterson - who can also stretch the floor

And their low-post guys:
Yao
Miller
Scola
Hayes
Jordan Hill

That's just a ridiculous amount of depth, and all of them with multiple skills. Martin can work on-ball or off, slashing or spotting up. Scola can work in the high or low post and has a reliable mid-range jumper. Making it all work will be Adelman's job, and there is such a thing as too much depth. It can cause discontent when players feel they're not getting time. And there's the ever-looming threat of the Big Move.

Daryl Morey has said repeatedly that though they've been successful in finding high value players, you cannot win in this league without superstars. And he clearly wants one to go with Yao's potentially final year with the Rockets. With Jeffries, Martin, Lee, Scola, Hill, and others, along with the picks he's acquired from New York, he has a set of assets to use if he wants to pursue, say, Carmelo Anthony. But that means more changes to the ship. All of this and they have to hope they stay healthy, which is an unlikely scenario given Yao's feet history.

In a perfect world, the Rockets could be contenders for making the Western Conference Finals, and facing a Lakers team they have consistently taken it to over the years. But that's the best case scenario. In the meantime, they'll have to try and integrate all the moving parts into one machine, and see how far it takes them. They've got the parts. They've just got to make them work together now that they're assembled.

(Situation-based data courtesy of Synergy Sports )
Posted on: August 27, 2010 1:44 pm
Edited on: August 27, 2010 1:46 pm
 

Your guide to the 2010 FIBA World Championships



Posted by Royce Young


The 2010 FIBA World Championships tip off tomorrow and let's be honest, outside of Team USA and a handful of NBA players scattered around other teams, we all don't know a ton about it. So here's your cheat sheet to catch up on the important parts of the games:

10 NON-NBA PLAYERS TO WATCH
Miroslav Raduljica, Serbia - The big Serbian was going to play a large role in this year's games before Nenad Krstic was suspended for three contests. Now, Serbia's early success may very well hinge on Raduljica. He runs the floor well, has soft hands and is one of the most improved players in Europe. He's eligible to enter the NBA draft next year and with a big showing in Turkey, might see his stock skyrocket.

Tibor Pleiss, Germany - Pleiss is property of the Oklahoma City Thunder and was taken in the early second round of this year's draft. He's 7'1, skilled with a lovely jumper that stretches out near the 3 and has an improving post game. He's already a quality rebounder and shot blocker, though as is the case with most young European big men, he needs strength. He's definitely an NBA caliber player at some point and he's one of Germany's top players. If Germany makes some noise in Turkey, it'll likely be because Pleiss did some breaking out.

Juan Carlos Navarro, Spain - Ah, the elusive JCN, or La Bomba as he's endearingly called in Spain. He's known in the States because of a brief stint with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2007-08, but is known across international basketball as one of the most crafty, creative and skilled guards in the world. The lack of superior athleticism is what held him back in the NBA, but he has an array of runners, floaters and running jumpshots, plus is deadly when he's open. He's one of those players that's basically just fun to watch.

Ioannis Bourousis, Greece - Bourousis is coming back from a hand injury that forced him to miss most of Greece's exhibition games, but should be ready to go in Turkey. He's a massive seven-footer that weighs in at 280 pounds. Like Tim Duncan, he trained to be a professional swimmer before getting to big for the pool. He's surprisingly smooth on the post and at 26, has improved his game a lot since 2006 when the U.S. played Greece.

Victor Claver, Spain - Property of the Portland Trail Blazers, Claver is a classic swingman that prefers to run the floor and shoot jumpers. He's not strong and not a great ballhandler, but does finish well at the rim. He's huge at 6'10, but only weighs about 215 pounds. Teams with physical forwards will beat him up, but running the floor with Ricky Rubio will give him a chance to showcase his talents in the open court.

Matthew Nielsen, Australia - The Euro Cup Final Four MVP for Valencia last season, Nielsen is an accomplished international player. He's 32 and has spent time on multiple national teams for Australia. He's not overly skilled, but he's big at 6'10 and moves well. He scores outworking players inside, but is a quality post-up threat.

Tiago Splitter, Brazil - He counts here because he's not in the NBA yet. A recent signee of the Spurs, Splitter will be a player that NBA fanatics will have a close eye on these next few weeks. We've all heard about his skills for the last few years, but most haven't had a chance to see them in action. He's incredibly gifted around the basket and if he plays well, Brazil may make a run to the semi-finals.

Timofey Mozgov, Russia - Same as Splitter, Mozgov will be in the NBA next year with the New York Knicks. He's a true big man at 7'1, but runs the floor well. He's not especially polished offensively, but he uses his big body well. A lot of people have compared him to Marcin Gortat or Andris Biedrins because he scores a lot by playing physical inside. He'll be a project for the Knicks, but he'll be a feature for the Russians.

Ante Tomic, Croatia - Tomic is a gifted big man that has drawn comparisons to Pau Gasol because of his excellent footwork, soft touch and passing ability. He has range that stretches out close to the international 3, and is a player Croatia will likely center their offense around. He's rail thin though and his lack of strength is what really hurts him when talking about taking his game up a notch.

Ricky Rubio, Spain - Everyone knows about the flashy passes. Everyone's seen the YouTube mixtapes. Everyone knows he has a ton of talent. But not a lot of people have seen him actually play a full basketball game, outside of 2008's gold medal game. With Jose Calderon out, this team is Rubio's. He'll play the bulk of the minutes and run the show. He's a bit turnover prone and his stat line never seems to impress, but it's all about watching him. A game where he scores five points, dishes out four assists and has four steals may not seem like much, but he seriously impacted the game.

THE UNITED STATES GROUP PREVIEW
Most consider Group B to be the toughest in Turkey. Obviously there's Team USA, but Brazil, Slovenia and Croatia are all capable squads that should advance out of this group.

Brazil
NBA players: Anderson Varejao, Leandro Barbosa, Tiago Splitter, Nene (out with injury)

Prior to Nene's injury, Brazil was becoming a trendy pick to make the semi-finals and possibly the finals. The talent is there and it's not just in NBA players only. Former NBA players Alex Garcia and Marcus Vinicius clearly have skill, but Marcelo Machado is an excellent sharpshooter, Marcelo Huertas is a crafty point guard and Wellington Dos Santos may actually be faster than Barbosa.

Former Gonzaga star J.P. Batista has the ability to anchor the interior with Splitter and Varejao and with a combination of size and speed, Brazil is a team to take notice of. They want to play up-tempo and high pressure defense, and they have the players to do it.

Croatia
NBA players: Roko Ukic

The Croatians are a squad that doesn't have a ton of top tier talent, but is deep and filled with quality players. The aforementioned Ante Tomic is the key. If he plays well and stays consistent throughout, Croatia could be a team that goes deeper than expected.

Iran
NBA players: Hamed Haddadi

This isn't a bad team. They aren't good, but they aren't that bad. They likely won't advance out of the group stage, but they definitely are a candidate to win a game or two. Teams like the United States will steamroll them, but they could definitely sneak up on Croatia and Slovenia, potentially making a little noise to finish in the top four.

Slovenia
NBA players: Goran Dragic, Primoz Brezec

As it is now, Slovenia is good. But if it had its entire roster with players like Beno Udrih, Sasha Vujacic, Rasho Nesterovic and Erazem Lorbek it could be really good. Slovenia should battle Croatia for third in this group, but is definitely good enough to get to second. It all hinges on Goran Dragic. He needs to score and create and if he can continue his good play, Slovenia should be fine.

Tunisia
NBA players: None

This is easily the worst team in the group. Its goal should be to maybe beat Iran and then keep games within 20. There's simply not enough talent on the roster to stay competitive. Honestly, Team USA could let Jim Boeheim and Nate McMillan start and it would still be a cakewalk.

United States
NBA players: Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Rudy Gay, Andre Iguodala, Lamar Odom, Tyson Chandler, Chauncey Billups, Danny Granger, Stephen Curry

The clear favorite to win Group B and a favorite to win the whole thing. Obviously, Team USA has the most talent in the entire field. But playing together is the key. Coach K has done a fine job of establishing roles for players, but the lack of interior size could hurt the Americans the deeper the tournament goes. A game against Brazil in this group could be the only hangup, but Croatia and Slovenia aren't pushovers.

Despite this group probably be the toughest in the tournament, anything less that a 5-0 start for Team USA would be disappointing.

Predicted finish:
1. United States
2. Brazil
3. Slovenia
4. Croatia
5. Iran
6. Tunisia

FOUR GROUP STAGE GAMES TO WATCH
Saturday, August 28: Spain vs. France - Two traditional soccer powerhouses field pretty solid basketball teams. Spain should win, but Nicolas Batum has emerged as a go-to player for France to seeing him compete and defend the Spanish roster will be fun.

Monday, August 30: Brazil vs. USA - The winner of this game will likely win the group. It should be a fun game to watch too as both teams play pressure defense and prefer to push the pace. This one could easily have 200 combined points.

Monday, August 30: Croatia vs. Slovenia - A European rivalry game with the winner surely locking in a place in the tournament, and probably third place in Group B.

Tuesday, August 31: Greece vs. Turkey - Someone might be killed during this game. No, seriously. Both these teams HATE each other. I don't know if this will so much be a basketball game, as a 40-minute hip-checking contest.

THE FAVORITES
United States - The most talent in the field, though maybe the least chemistry. The U.S. squad will have to find its identity and find it fast.

Spain - A chic pick to win gold, Spain has the talent, chemistry and leadership to win. Losing Jose Calderon hurts only the sense that backcourt depth is light. But if Spain is to seriously make this run, a player like Rudy Fernandez is going to have to elevate his game and play well.

Greece - The smallest player on the team is Vassilis Spanoulis, and he's "only" 6'4. So in other words, the Greek's are big. Greece is massive and what they lack in athleticism, they make up for in size and skill.

Argentina
- The USA's old nemesis, Argentina has NBA talent in Carlos Delfino, Luis Scola and Fabrico Oberto. They'll surely miss Andres Nocioni and Manu Ginobili, but this is a team that should make an easy run to the quarters, probably the semifinals and possibly the finals.

Serbia - The suspensions to Nenad Krstic and Milos Teodosic definitely hurt, but there is enough on this roster still to get out of the group. And once they're full strength, this is a team that's good enough to be in the semifinals.

Brazil - The Brazilians seem to be flying a bit under the radar, but with a group of speedy, skilled players, they should get to the quarterfinals with ease and then past that, they're a tough matchup for anyone.

THE SLEEPERS
Turkey - The host country always seems to do well because the boost from a home crowd always helps. But Turkey has players too. There's Hedo Turkoglu, Ersan Ilyasova, Semih Erden and Omer Asik, all NBA players. Some are taking Turkey to get to the finals based only on the fact they're hosting, but they might get there because this roster has some serious talent.

Canada - Don't sleep on Canada. While not a lot of names on the roster jump out and there's no Steve Nash, they have all decent players and a few NBA guys in Joel Anthony and Andy Rautins. Canada beat Serbia and France in friendlies and isn't a walkover by any means.

Puerto Rico - This feisty group has three NBA players in J.J. Barea, Renaldo Balkman and Carlos Arroyo and has played well in exhibitions. They should get out of their group and in tournament play, they have the players to make a small run.

Australia - The Australians have slowly been building better basketball teams and this might be one of their best yet. There are two NBA players in David Andersen and Patty Mills, plus quality guys like A.J. Ogilvy and Matthew Nielsen. They lack athleticism, but if Mills can get his game going, Australia might sneak up on a few teams.

PREDICTION (see the full bracket)
Group A winner: Argentina (Serbia, Germany, Australia advance)
Group B winner: United States (Brazil, Slovenia, Croatia advance)
Group C winner: Greece (Turkey, Puerto Rico, Russia advance)
Group D winner: Spain (Lithuania, France, Canada advance)

Round of 16: Argentina defeats Croatia, Puerto Rico defeats Lithuania, Greece defeats Canada, Brazil defeats Germany, United States defeat Australia, Turkey defeats France, Spain defeats Russia, Slovenia defeats Serbia

Quarterfinals: Argentina defeats Puerto Rico, Brazil defeats Greece, United States defeat Turkey, Spain defeats Slovenia

Semifinals: Argentina defeats Brazil, United States defeat Spain

Third place: Spain defeats Brazil

Finals: United States defeat Argentina
Some don't like Team USA winning gold. But it's hard not to like them. The way the bracket sets up, if both Spain and the U.S. win their groups, they'll meet in the semifinals. So if the U.S. gets by Spain again, beat whoever comes their way in the gold medal game shouldn't be a huge issue.

The thing with Team USA is, they have more talent than anyone. They have more skill. They have more strength. They have more speed. They have more athleticism. The one thing they lack is size, and that's just in a traditional sense. Nobody can properly match up with the likes of Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant and Rudy Gay. Even figuring out how to guard Team USA's second unit would be tough. While no, this isn't a team full of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, this is a quality unit with a ton of talent. There will be some tough games for sure and the U.S. will rely on Rose and Durant to carry them through. But these guys should be up to the task to bring home gold for the first time since 1994.
Posted on: July 23, 2010 10:08 am
Edited on: July 23, 2010 3:30 pm
 

Offseason reviews: Southwest Division

Posted by Royce Young

Dallas Mavericks

Added: Tyson Chandler (trade), Alexis Ajinca (trade), Ian Mahinmi (free agency), Dominique Jones (draft)
Lost:
Erick Dampier (trade), Eduardo Najera (trade), Matt Carroll (trade)

Philosophy: "It's now or never."

The Mavs' clock is starting to tick. Time is beginning to run out on the Dirk Nowitzki era and the team knows this. And every move this offseason was made in an effort to stay competitive, get to the playoffs and hopefully set themselves up for more midseason moves if necessary. The Mavericks have had the type of roster over the last 10 years that's always good enough to win 50 games, get to the postseason and maybe even win a series. But there's just never enough oomph to it and it seems like the Mavs are always a player short.

Tyson Chandler for Erick Dampier seems like a lateral move in a sense because does that really improve Dallas to the point that they're a legitimate contender now? Unlikely. The Mavericks picked up about 10 centers, but with Brendan Haywood now established inside, the Mavericks are looking to match up with Bynum and Gasol and with Chandler, things got a little better.

Grade: B-

Houston Rockets

Added: Luis Scola (re-signed), Kyle Lowry (re-signed), Brad Miller (free agency), Patrick Patterson (draft)
Lost: None

Philosophy: "Keep playing chess while the rest, you know."

You might as well count Yao as addition as well, because getting the big man back is huge for the Rockets. But Houston re-inked Kyle Lowry and Luis Scola for the long-term and brought in Brad Miller as help/insurance behind Yao. The Rockets are a team that want sustained success but are looking to compete now. Daryl Morey isn't shy about being active to build a roster he prefers, and this offseason, he did exactly that. The Rockets drafted Patrick Patterson in the first round, re-signed a few players and attempted to address an issue inside.

Grade: B+

Memphis Grizzlies

Added: Rudy Gay (re-signed), Tony Allen (free agency), Xavier Henry (draft)
Lost: Marcus Williams (free agency), Lester Hudson (free agency)

Philosophy: "Hang with us, we're getting there."

The Grizzlies have built a quality roster somewhat unconventionally. They've acquired a large bulk of it through the draft and trades, but really scored big last season when Zach Randolph decided he was ready to play without any baggage. The biggest thing the Grizzlies did this offseason was re-sign Rudy Gay. Now, is Gay worth $84 million? Eh, that's a pretty hefty price for him. But keep in mind, Gay is only 23 and had his best season last year. And someone was going to pay him. It basically came down to if Memphis wanted to hang on to its franchise player, they were going to have to overpay. These are the type of things that can hurt in the long term, but it was a choice the Grizzlies had to make and they chose to keep their most talented player. Hard to say it's really that dumb.

The Tony Allen signing is a slight headscratcher, mainly because where does he fit in for quality minutes? O.J. Mayo may be learning to play point, but he's still the starting 2. Of course there's Xavier Henry who the Grizzlies drafted and though he can play small forward, he's a more natural shooting guard. Allen is versatile and brought in to defend, but $15 million over three years is pretty steep for a guy that might only play 15-20 minutes a night.

The one thing about the Grizzlies is that there doesn't seem to be any real direction. It's more a collection of talented players, but how do they fit together? How do they play together? Memphis isn't necessarily a player or two away from being a playoff team, but more an existing roster player elevating his game. Mike Conley Jr. definitely was an improved player last season, so maybe he's a candidate for a leap. Same with O.J. Mayo. The talent is in the cupboard, it's just about pulling it out onto the floor.

Grade: B

New Orleans Hornets

Added: Quincy Pondexter (draft), Craig Brackins (draft)
Lost: Morris Peterson (trade), Sean Marks (free agency), Chris Paul's commitment to the franchise

Philosophy: "Just trust us Chris! We'll get better!"

Ignore all that Chris Paul talk for just one minute. The Hornets, have been a pretty active team this offseason. And not just in terms of the roster. New Orleans has its GM resign, then hired a new GM, hired a new coach and is in the process of transferring ownership. Then they signed Luther Head and rescinded that deal. Plus they traded the 11th pick, Cole Aldrich, for Quincy Pondexter and Craig Brackins.

They've done a whole lot, while doing very little. But it all comes back to Paul. The main goal of this offseason is to set up a new front office, install a new coach and somehow convince your soured star to stay true to the mission. If that gets done, this is a slam dunk of an offseason for the Hornets, considering the circumstances. If Paul walks, the summer months were nothing short of a disaster.

Grade: Incomplete

San Antonio Spurs

Added: Tiago Splitter (signed), Richard Jefferson (re-signed), James Anderson (draft), Ryan Richards (draft), Gary Neal (summer league signee)
Lost: Roger Mason Jr. (free agency), Keith Bogans (free agency), Ian Mahinmi (free agency),

Philosophy: "We're not done yet."

The Spurs are offseason savants. RC Buford and company know how to pay just the right money, push the right buttons and get the right players. And evidently how to talk people out of $15 million. Take say, Richard Jefferson for example. The Spurs lucked out when Jefferson opted out of his $15 million deal. He claimed it was because he wanted a long-term deal. The Spurs obliged, Jefferson took less money and it saved the Spurs from busting the luxury tax and kept some serious coin in their pockets. It's a fishy deal, but nonetheless, good for San Antonio.

Next, they signed Tiago Splitter. Splitter has been sort of a myth the last few years. A gifted big man that tore it up internationally, but couldn't come to terms with San Antonio. Well, the Spurs officially inked him to a sensible deal (about $16 million over three years) and not only is Splitter visions of the future for San Antonio, but he also helps now. They also added James Anderson, an All-American and prolific college scorer to replace Roger Mason Jr. The Spurs know what they want to do and while their core may seem ancient, the goal remains the same: build around talent and ride Tim Duncan until he can't walk anymore.

Grade: B+


 
 
 
 
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