Tag:Nenad Krstic
Posted on: October 19, 2010 1:29 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2010 1:43 pm
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Trying to explain the odd SI Thunder cover

Posted by Royce Young

When Sports Illustrated leaked its NBA preview issue cover this morning, there were two big surprises: 1) There wasn't a glimpse of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James or Chris Bosh anywhere to be seen on it and 2) it featured Kevin Durant and... Nenad Krstic and Thabo Sefolosha?

Kevin Durant, we all get. No qualms or questions there. But Krstic and Sefolosha? Where's Russell Westbrook, a player whose star is increasing by the day? Or Jeff Green, one of the de facto faces of the franchise? Or even James Harden who is a major part of the Thunder youth movement? Those guys are the obvious candidates, not a guy that's noted for his tough perimeter defense and another that became famous for throwing a chair in someone's face this summer.

But as someone that resides in Oklahoma City and that has followed the Thunder franchise pretty closely since it moved here, I think I have an explanation. Or at least a theory. The Thunder wanted the cover that way.

Obviously Sports Illustrated takes the picture, but the Thunder probably pushed having Sefolosha and Krstic in the picture with KD. Why? Because it just reinforces the philosophy of the franchise. It's not about one guy or even three guys. It's about every player, even down to the training camp invite that's probably not going to make the team.

Every team preaches that idea. But the Thunder lives by it and not just for reasons on the floor. For instance, in my travels in Oklahoma City, I can recall only one, maybe two, major Thunder advertisements featuring Durant. You'd think every single Thunder thing would have his face and his face only all over it. But there are major billboards that have Serge Ibaka and Eric Maynor together on it. There's even one with bench scrubs Byron Mullens and D.J. White. In the Thunder's practice facility, there's not any individual pictures or accomplishments to be found. There's one big banner that has a photo of the team in a huddle.

It a culture that's being built by the front office. And while it's good motivation for what happens on the court, it's also a marketing strategy off it.

The Thunder's goal is to not be Oklahoma City's professional sports franchise and something that's entertainment for residents. They aim to be part of the community. I'm not talking about just making school appearances and stuff. I'm talking about like being the local YMCA. These are professional athletes, these are citizens of your city.

One of the reasons they market the team and not individuals is because of long-term planning. Just in the same way Sam Presti has built the Thunder roster through patience and planning, the organization wants to build the fanbase the same way. For an eight-year-old, Kevin Durant won't be here in 15 years when he's thinking about buying season tickets. The Thunder wants to build a brand that appeals to that eight-year-old now and not just market a cool player to look up to. Because players come and go. The organization doesn't. (Well, shouldn't. Don't throw things at me Seattle readers.)

The organization wants to make it cool to be a Thunder fan, not just a Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook fan. Obviously the players are a major part of it, but little things like putting two role playing non-stars on the cover of a major magazine is just something that's not surprising with this organization. It all starts with the stars, but they're not anymore important than the last player on the bench.

It's about brand management for the long haul. Kind of the opposite of what the Heat are doing now. The Heat introduced their new Big 3 together at a huge party, as if they're the only three players on the team. But what happens when their contracts are up and they move on? The Heat are building a brand based off three players, not off the entire Miami Heat team. It's a different approach and one that works for a major market, but for a small community driven market like Oklahoma City, it's always team first, individuals, well, never. 

It helps that the Thunder's star is as bought in to the team concept as the organization. Reportedly, Durant was going to be on the cover by himself but demanded he have a couple teammates on there with them. Maybe he specifically asked for Thabo and Nenad. Maybe that's all that was available. Or maybe the team sent them. Who knows. But this team concept thing helps when the guy that would be getting all the attention defers to the same philosophy as the franchise.

There's a line in an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry is talking to George and mentions how silly professional sports kind of are, mentioning that really, we're just rooting for laundry. And it's like the Thunder had made that its mantra. They want their fans to root for the laundry, not the guys wearing it.
Posted on: October 8, 2010 4:04 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2010 5:50 pm
 

Brooks thinks the Thunder are coming along nicely

Thunder coach expects difficulty in managing frontcourt versatility, praises Westbrook's leadership growth.
Posted by Matt Moore


Scott Brooks simultaneously has an extremely difficult and conveniently easy gig right now. He's got a top club in the NBA's Western Conference, but operating with a young roster in a small market, expectations aren't through the roof. He's got a high volume of frontcourt depth, but he's got to figure out how to manage all the rotations and minutes. And he's got guys that love to play together. There's really no downside to that.

At practice Friday morning before OKC's preseason game versus the Heat, Brooks talked about that frontcourt depth. Cole Aldrich, the eleventh overall pick (acquired in a trade with the Hornets that also netted Mo Peterson) will get the start tonight in KC, less than an hour from KU where he made his bones in college. The Thunder this year have worlds of depth down low, with Aldrich joining Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison (another KU alum), and Nenad Krstic with Byron Mullens mopping up the excess. Brooks says the depth is a good thing to have, but a challenge for the staff.
"I like the depth we've got at all five spots. It makes it challenging for the coach, but it's better. You'd rather have that than have to bleed every minute of the starting five. I feel very confident that our guys off the bench whoever they may be will come in and do well. I like the frontcourt. We've have a lot of different style of players. Serge brings his game, and then on down the line: Cole, Nenad, and Jeff, with Byron and D.J. It's my job to figure out how to mesh it all together."
Brooks also spoke about Russell Westbrook and the leadership skills he took from his work this summer with Team USA:
"Any time you're around a great group of athletes like he was with Team USA, it's going to help your game and your leadership. Coach K's a terrific coach, and you learn something from every coach you have. Russell's leadership skills have improved every year. I think as a point guard you want that. It's hard to lead a team as a rookie. The only one I can remember is Magic. But Russell's done a great job in developing his leadership skills."
Westbrook will get his chances to show the offensive leadership tonight against a Heat team that will start Mario Chalmers (another former Jayhawk) and Mike Miller, filling in for an injured Dywane Wade.
Posted on: September 24, 2010 6:49 pm
Edited on: September 25, 2010 10:29 pm
 

Preseason Primer: Thunder

Posted by Royce Young

Over the summer, the Thunder quickly became an "it" team. Behind Kevin Durant's humble contract extension, the team's pushing of the Lakers in the first round, Durant and Russell Westbrook's performances in Turkey and the additions to the roster, expectations are high. But there are still questions for camp. What about Jeff Green? He didn't get an extension this summer. Could that upset the normally stellar chemistry of the Thunder? Or how about James Harden? Can he steal the starting job from Thabo Sefolosha?

Training camp site: Edmond, OK

Training camp starts: Sept. 28

Key additions: Cole Aldrich (draft), Morris Peterson (trade), Daequan Cook (trade)

Key subtractions: Um, Etan Thomas? (free agent), Ron Adams (assistant coach moved to Chicago), Rich Cho (now GM of Blazers)

Likely starting lineup:   Russell Westbrook, PG; Thabo Sefolosha, SG; Kevin Durant, SF; Jeff Green, PF; Nenad Krstic, C

Player to watch: All eyes will surely be on Kevin Durant who has received as much offseason hype as any player. But there are two guys to keep an eye on in Thunder camp: Serge Ibaka and James Harden. Those two player will be as key to OKC's success as anyone. Both are immensely talented and both are expected to take big steps forward this season. Training camp is a chance for both to earn extra minutes, and maybe starting spots.

Chemistry quiz: There probably isn't a team in the league with as much real chemistry as the Thunder. They hang together, play video games together, go see movies together and in general, are all friends. Any time new faces are added to it, there's a small question as to how they'll fit in, but young guys like Cole Aldrich and Daequan Cook shouldn't have any issues.

However, mainstay Jeff Green has a contract extension hanging over his head right now. While Kevin Durant got paid over the summer, buddy Green did not. Thunder management is looking for Green to prove his worth this season and while Green is a great teammate, it could potentially become an issue.

Camp battles: The Thunder are pretty set in their ways right now, having started the same five in all but six games last season. But James Harden could push Thabo Sefolosha for the starting 2-guard spot. A big camp that showcases improvements on the defensive end could earn Harden the minutes. Also, Scott Brooks prefers to play just nine and right now, the Thunder's rotation appears set. So how does Cole Aldrich earn minutes in that group?

Injury watch: Nenad Krstic is out after having surgery on a finger. This is a big chance for Aldrich, Serge Ibaka and second-year player Byron Mullens to potentially make a case for more playing time.

Biggest strength: Talent. This Thunder group is full of ability. In every sense of the word too. Athleticism, speed, skill - you name it. Still one of the youngest rosters in the league this group aged and matured a hundred years worth with its baptism by fire against the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. Some might think they're still inexperienced, but after Russell Westbrook and Durant's maturation in Turkey and over the summer, these guys are ready.

Glaring weakness: Interior size. The jury is still out on Jeff Green's power forwardness. Aldrich helps, but he's a raw rookie. Ibaka came a long way but he's likely not ready to start. Krstic is a finesse big man that doesn't rebound. Nick Collison is a scrapper, but undersized to play big at center. The Thunder rebounds as a team and actually led the league in blocks last year, but against the giants in the West like the Lakers, size could be a problem.

Posted on: September 16, 2010 12:08 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2010 12:09 pm
 

Pop Quiz: Are the Thunder legit contenders?

Posted by Royce Young

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...

Is Oklahoma City actually ready to contend for the Western Conference crown?

The expectations started immediately following a rousing standing ovation Oklahoma City fans gave their home team after being eliminated by the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.

I was in attendance at that game and while Thunder fans were obviously disappointed not to have forced a Game 7 in Los Angeles, once people started filing out of the then-Ford Center, the chatter began.

"Well, this shouldn't happen again next year," one guy near me said.

"Yeah, next year we shouldn't see the Lakers until the Western Conference Finals," another answered.

Then add in the summer Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook had playing for Team USA and the Thunder has maybe moved away from fan expectations to now having a bit of pressure.

The talent is there. It was no fluke OKC won 50 games last season. And they know because of the earlier-than-expected success, expectation to do bigger and better things are there. It's the nature of the hype machine beast.

But forget expectations. Forget hype. The question is, is this Thunder squad actually good enough to contend in the West? Yes, they're fun to talk about and a trendy pick, but they were the youngest team in the league last season. Actually, here's how young they are: In three years, they'll still have over half the roster under the age of 26. So can this young group that overachieved last season take the next step?

Answer, plainly put: Yes. Absolutely yes.

If Durant showed the world anything in Turkey, it's that he's ready. Ready to shoulder the load of having 11 other teammates look to him to bail them out. He's ready to take on the pressure of a tough atmosphere. He's ready to carry a team. He was close to ready last season, winning the scoring title with 30.1 points per game and finishing second in the MVP voting behind LeBron James. But in the playoffs, he didn't play like himself. His percentages were way down, his scoring was down and in the heartbreaking Game 6 loss, Durant went just 5-23 from the floor.

But he hasn't forgot. No way. He talked about how much he learned in that series when he was leading his country to gold in Turkey and he's going to be thinking about that as motivation going in to camp. I almost think people need to be reminded daily that Durant isn't even 22 years old yet. The more he learns, the more hard experience he has, the more dangerous he becomes.

Not to mention the apparent improvement of Russell Westbrook. People don't realize how good Westbrook was for Oklahoma City last season, especially the last half of the year. Against the Lakers, he showcased his versatility and skill. In Turkey, he blew people away with his defensive ability and athleticism. And just like Durant, Westbrook is only 21 and will be entering his third year. He's darn good now, but just wait until he starts to figure things out.

Now OKC has questions. Jeff Green has looked overmatched at power forward. Nenad Krstic may not be a legit starting center. They didn't deal with any significant injuries last season. And of course, they're still young. If you don't want to believe that they can really contend, the reasons are there.

Plus, the West is always tough. The Rockets will be better, New Orleans has Chris Paul back for a full season, the Blazers will be healthy, the Grizzlies and Kings are improving and the old dogs like San Antonio, Dallas and Phoenix can still play. But keep in mind: Oklahoma City didn't win 50 last season in a Western Conference that was down. They won 50 in a year that all eight playoff teams hit at least that mark.

Common sense says the Thunder should be better this year. They improved the roster with an inside presence in Cole Aldrich, shooters in Morris Peterson and Daequan Cook and an extra defensive-minded guard in Royal Ivey. And then of course the natural progression of all the young guys. Don't overlook the potential improvement of a player like James Harden who as a role playing rookie put up quality numbers and percentages. With an extra year, he might be a potential Manu Ginobili type player that can make a huge impact off the bench. And I haven't even mentioned Serge Ibaka yet.

Winning 50 seems like it should be a given with some even tossing around 55 or 60 for OKC. And after that once they get into the playoffs, you never know. They got the hard part out of their system last season with their first playoff experience. This time, they should be ready.

Last season, everybody told the Thunder they couldn't. They were too young, too inexperienced, too raw. They weren't ready. And they used that as motivation to prove everyone wrong. This season, all the expectation is there. They've got talent. They've got their star. They've got a great coach. But most don't think they're actually prepared to play for a trophy. Those questions are there. What happens if someone gets hurt? Aren't they still a year or two away? Aren't they missing one more player?

Just keep telling the Thunder they can't. I think they like it.

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: August 26, 2010 1:55 pm
Edited on: August 26, 2010 2:02 pm
 

Punishments are fair for Greece-Serbia brawl

Posted by Royce Young

FIBA announced today that it has suspended four players for their involvement in the ugly (and somewhat awesome) brawl that took place last week in a game between Greece and Serbia. Nenad Krstic, the chair thrower at large, received the heaviest punishment of three games, while teammate Milos Teodosic for two games. From Greece, Antonis Fotsis and Sofoklis Schortsanitis are both suspended two games.

Krstic was also fined (in Swiss dollars for some reason) to translates to a $44,000. Both the Serbian and Hellenic basketball federations were hit with a $19,500 fine.
Money from the fines will be used to support education programs for young basketball players.

FIBA said in a press release that it "
believes that the judgement will send a strong message to all players that their behaviour on and off the court must be exemplary and in line with the rules of basketball at all times." All players have the right to appeal.

Obviously this punishment hurts Serbia more than Greece because Krstic is the featured player for Serbia and he's missing almost the entire qualifying round. Greece on the other hand catches a break because its first two games are definitely winnable without
Fotsis and Schortsanitis, and Greece will have both back by its third game, a big one against Turkey.

The Greek players will only miss games against China and Puerto Rico, while Teodosic will miss Angola and Germany, with Krstic also missing against Jordan. Both teams are favorites to advance out of the qualifying round and though these suspensions don't help, they should still be able to advance.

As for the punishment itself, FIBA was in a tough spot here. Some thought they should be suspended for the entire World Championships, especially Krstic. But this is FIBA's featured event and surely it didn't want to water the games down by holding out some of the most well-known players. The fight is definitely a black eye and the chair toss an extremely ugly moment, but in my mind, this is fair. Krstic got extra for the chunking the chair, all four were suspended for at least two games and both basketball federations were fined. A message was sent, though it's not especially strong.

Going farther than these suspensions would put an unwanted shadow over the games. Fights happen in sports. Of course chair throwing doesn't often occur when Bobby Knight isn't involved, but still, fighting is nothing all that new. This brawl wasn't especially nasty, save for the end. When international teams play, emotions run high and blood boils a little easier than usual. So two teams got into it. Two and three suspensions doesn't say that FIBA is serious about preventing this again, but it does say that it's not totally acceptable. We all want to see the best players and best teams in Turkey. And FIBA tried its best to still make that happen while also making somewhat of a statement.

Posted on: August 20, 2010 4:56 pm
Edited on: August 20, 2010 4:58 pm
 

Playing for country, risking the future

Posted by Royce Young

If you ask Sam Presti what he thinks of three of his Thunder players competing in the World Championships, he'd give you the scripted answer. He'd say how he's excited about the opportunity for them, how he's encouraged them to play hard there and how he thinks the competition will only make them better.

Actually, Presti pretty much already said exactly that. “We know that, more than likely, our guys are going to be playing somewhere during the summer, whether it’s in a gym in L.A. or D.C. or wherever it is,” Presti said in an interview with thunder.nba .com. “But given the opportunity to compete against the best players in the NBA in a structured environment is really a great development opportunity for the guys as a whole and it’s certainly better than any pick-up game they can find elsewhere.”

But I'm guessing if you could really ask him and get a candid answer, he'd probably say he's a bit terrified. Excited for them no doubt, but certainly nervous. And you can bank that he's definitely not the only one.

With injuries piling up for NBA stars that are competing this summer internationally, the fear for coaches, GMs and fans rises as well. So far we've seen a sprained ankle for Stephen Curry, a dislocated finger for Danny Granger, an ankle injury to Anderson Varejao , plus there are potential for incidents like we saw yesterday with Nenad Krstic . Plus, the worst yet, a broken foot for Rodrigue Beaubois. Any time players compete, the chance for injury or issue is there.

Take the Dallas Mavericks for example. Other than Beaubois' injury, the Mavs have reason to squirm a bit. Tyson Chandler was one of the Mavs biggest moves of the offseason . And with the rash of problems with Team USA's big men, Chandler is the only center on the roster. That means if coach Mike Krzyzewski wants to have an actual center on the floor, Chandler would have to go the distance. That sound you just heard was Mark Cuban throwing up.

Chandler is a player that can barely go to his mailbox and grab his mail without getting hurt. And between practices, exhibition games and then actual games in Turkey, Chandler might pile up half a season of work before the season even starts. Plus, add in the fact that other teams know Chandler is the only big man on Team USA's roster, the fact other countries tend to play a little rougher against Team USA and the fact that international play can tend to get a little nasty, and you've got three strikes to be concerned about. And that's just with Tyson Chandler.

But what are teams supposed to do? Tell their guys they can't play? Of course they have to protect their investments and the best interests of their respective organizations, but you can't stop a player from playing for his country. This isn't North Korea. But at the same time, you can bet Cuban has Coach K on speed dial and has probably offered his opinion once or twice on Chandler's contributions.

There are lots of NBA players playing in the World Championships this year, as is the case now in international basketball. But for the most part, it doesn't matter if they're playing in Turkey or not, basketball players are prone to playing basketball. Whether that be on the blacktop or on the hardwood, injury risks are there all offseason . But it's not just the injury but the fatigue of playing a couple hundred extra minutes. Players might be worn down heading into training camp, a time they're supposed to be at their freshest. Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks senses that concern.

“Well they’re definitely going to need some time to just decompress and relax because it’s going to be a very high-intensity tournament,They’re going to play basketball all year long. Kevin, I wanted him to take a couple of weeks off and he took two days off," Brooks said in an interview with an OKC radio station. "There’s going to be a little bit of time where I’ll say ‘OK, you guys gotta rest,’ and maybe I can rest them a few days during that month of October, but it’s going to be like pulling teeth to get those guys to sit out of things.”

Kobe Bryant talked about the kind of wear and tear he felt after playing 82 games, then another 30 or so in the postseason and then another 15 in the 2008 Olympics. He only got about a month off to recover before he was revving back up for the 2008-09 season. Players like Rajon Rondo and Lamar Odom went deep into the postseason and are experiencing that long summer. Will it effect them during a back-to-back next February? Eh, hard to say. In fact, probably not. These guys are world-class athletes in world-class shape. But mentally it can tax on a player and the perception can be that all those games have caused someone to lose a step.

The ultimate fear is what happened to Beaubois. A serious injury that could potentially have an effect on the upcoming season. I'm sure Mark Cuban had a moment of "Why in the heck is he playing in this dumb thing?" But then again, Darren Collison was injured playing pickup ball. Making it through the summer unscathed is something GMs and coaches cross their fingers for, but international competition or not, risk for injury is there. But in the case of this summer, the Worlds just present more opportunity than usual.

Playing for country is almost a duty to some of these players. It seems like lip service when people like Kevin Durant say it's a dream and the ultimate pinnacle in basketball is having a gold medal placed around your neck while your anthem blares. But to these guys, it's means something. That doesn't mean there not risks involved and that front offices and fanbases can't be fretful. But if you want your players to get better and satisfy their ambitions to wear their country's colors, you've just to cross your fingers, say a little prayer and hope come October, everything is the way it should be.
Posted on: August 19, 2010 7:28 pm
Edited on: August 19, 2010 10:15 pm
 

Serbia, Greece brawl, Nenad Krstic throws a chair

Posted by Royce Young

In international competition, when two teams play an exhibition game, it's called a "friendly." I think you can see where I'm going with this.

During Greece and Serbia's game today, the two teams got into a tussle. And instead of the usual pushing, shoving and trash talking in different languages, stuff actually went down. Went down as in chairs got tossed around.



As you can see, Krstic got into it with the Euro Shaq, Sofoklis Schortsanitis. And as Krstic backed his way out of the mushpot, he did what any sensible person in a basketball fight would do. He threw a chair. The bad part is, the chair appeared to catch a lot of his own team's trainer.

I have no idea what the reprecussions might be from this (or what started the fight), but it's pretty clear that Krstic v. Schortsanitis is not exactly Frazier v. Ali. But that's only in terms of actual fighting ability because in terms of entertainment, I'd say this "fight" makes grade.
 
 
 
 
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