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Tag:Stephen Curry
Posted on: September 23, 2010 2:42 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2010 2:43 pm
 

Preseason Primers: Warriors

Posted by Royce Young

The Warriors will be under new leadership once the season starts, but it's going to be the same group running training camp. This is a new-look team with a number of fresh faces, but the core backcourt remains and looks to grow another year together. Can the Warriors begin a climb back to respectibility? It'll all start in training camp for them and it'll also require a number of issue to get sorted out.

Training camp site: Oakland, CA

Training camp starts: Sept. 28

Key additions: Dorell Wright (free agent), David Lee (sign and trade), Jeremy Lin (draft), Ekpe Udoh (draft), Louis Amundson (free agent), Rodney Carney (free agent)

Key subtractions: Anthony Randolph (trade), C.J. Watson (free agent), Corey Maggette (trade), Anthony Morrow (free agent)

Likely starting lineup: Stephen Curry, PG; Monta Ellis, SG; Dorell Wright, SF; David Lee, PF; Andris Biedrins, C

Player to watch: Jeremy Lin. For whatever reason, Lin has already become a cult basketball star. He's the Harvard grad who blew people away with his summer league fearlessness and ability. He got a guaranteed contract from the Warriors and is already becoming one of the faces of the team and probably the fan favorite. Everyone has him dubbed a sleeper and a ready-made scorer that's going to make an impact.

Did I mention he hasn't played a game yet? While Lin was impressive during the summer, he's still an unknown. Right now he's third on the depth chart behind Charlie Bell for backup point guard duties, so he's got to work to earn time on the floor as well.

Chemistry quiz: The Curry-Ellis experiment enters year two, with both guys desperate to have the ball in their hands. In the Don Nelson system, shots are there for pretty much anyone who's willing to take them, but a constant battle over who controls the ball is something the Warriors hope to avoid. It can upset not just on-court chemistry, but also off-court unity as well.

The real chemistry question is what's happening upstairs. Once ownership of the team is transferred, will the Warriors still be under the same direction of Nelson, or will they be scrambling to make a switch to Keith Smart (or someone else) right before the season?

Camp battles: Who's backing up David Lee at power forward? Ekpe Udoh was hurt this summer with a wrist injury, but is he ready to find rotation time in front of Brandan Wright? Wright has always seemed to find himself in Nelson's dog house, but with Udoh's setback, Wright may get his chances.

Injury issues:
David Lee hurt his hand during Team USA's training camp but is supposed to be healthy for the Warriors camp.

Biggest strength: Speed. Everyone knows the Warriors can score. Their points per game is often a bit deceiving because in terms of offensive efficiency, they're typically in the middle to lower half of the league. But this Warrior team has a bunch of skill around the ball. Curry is a gifted passer and shooter. Ellis goes end to end in a blur. David Lee runs the floor exceptionally well for a big man. And there are hyper-athletic guys waiting on the pine like Udoh, Wright and Lou Amundson.

Glaring weakness: Should I just say "defense" and leave it at that. Or do I really need to explain why the Warriors are bad defensively and therefore, that's a weakness? Let's just leave it at that.
Posted on: September 7, 2010 2:52 pm
 

Pop Quiz: How will the All-Star Game look?

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...



What will the All-Star Game look like?


Los Angeles. City of Angels. Home of the back-to-back NBA champions, the legendary LA Lakers. And in February, home of the 2011 NBA All-Star Game. It's going to be ridiculous, it's going to be over-the-top (more so than even your normal All-Star Game). It's going to be expensive. Really, really expensive. It will also be interesting as next year there are likely to be big changes in the All-Star Game. So what exactly is that game going to look like?

It's difficult to predict, obviously, who will be participating in the game. Even more so than any other episode of predicting the future, there are so many factors that can play into who makes it. Not only things like injuries, team downturns, unexpected rises, and trades, but the popularity contest of the voting system. But there are some things we can examine the possibility of.

For starters, with Amar'e Stoudemire headed to New York, there's a spot down low for the West. You can slide in Tim Duncan, because he's like Johnny Cash. Steady like a freight train, sharp like a razor. Pau Gasol's another lock, as many think he's the best power forward in the league right no w. From there, you've got Zach Randolph and Chris Kaman as the other two bigs from last year's squad. Kaman's unlikely to return with the addition of Blake Griffin, and Randolph's success is tied to an inconsistent Grizzlies team. Meanwhile, Yao Ming returns from injury and will most likely look like a legitimate contender for the starting spot.

But what about Andrew Bynum? We've been waiting for Bynum to live up to his potential for three seasons, and he's constantly referred to as one of the best centers in the league, despite his numerous injury issues. With the Lakers getting older, and Bynum supposedly healthier than he has been in years, Bynum has to be considered a strong contender not just for the backup position, but possibly as a starting center (which would put Tim Duncan at power forward, where he belongs).

Speaking of Duncan, he and Dirk Nowitzki are headed down the stretch and it'll be important to note that one of them is going to take a step backwards. Age demands it. And though Duncan is widely considered the best power forward of all time by those that consider him a power forward, he's most likely to have the dropoff. You saw it at times last season. The writing isn't on the wall, but there's a pen by the chalkboard. Bear in mind we're talking about inches below the greatness he's always provided, but it might be enough with a rising Bynum to shove either him or Dirk out of the starting lineup. And that will just be weird.

This is all before we start trying to figure out the point guards in the West. Steve Nash showing no signs of slowing down. Chris Paul back to full health. Deron Williams healthy with Al Jefferson beside him and more of the offensive load. Tyreke Evans, out of the rookie well and into the general pool. Russell Westbrook, possibly coming on as one of the better slide and dice guards in the league on a team that looks poised to make a run. Stephoe Curry, a rookie of the year runner-up with another season under him and a license to score. This likely means Jason Kidd will not be returning to the team for the 11th time in his career.

And oh, yeah, Kobe will be back in the starting spot. No "probably." He will be.

In the East? Well, the Miami Triad was formed from guys in the East, so they're likely to stay. Even with a downturn in production from sharing the ball, all three should be locks, though it's hard to see Bosh making the starting spot as he was a reserve last season. Amar'e Stoudemire could wind up knocking Kevin Garnett out of the starting spot which would be another changing of the guard. But a more likely scenario is Joe Johnson being unable to reach the starting spot again and moving into the reserve spot as the East looks like the West from last year: four bigs and a guard (Dwyane Wade). Which will be disappointing considering Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo's existence, both of whom are probable to return as starters.

Carlos Boozer, freed from the big-heavy West, may be able to work his way into a spot, and Paul Pierce may be on the bubble. If Andrew Bogut returns healthy, he could complicate matters, along with Brandon Jennings. Basically, point guards are going to massively complicate these rosters.

Sure, some of these players are going to go down to injury, others will have downturn seasons. But there's a strong indication that this might be a year of big changes in the All-Star Game, both with starting rosters and the reserve spots.

But the parties will be awesome regardless.
Posted on: September 6, 2010 1:04 pm
Edited on: September 6, 2010 1:05 pm
 

Team USA dismantles Angola, 121-66

Posted by Royce Young

Some thought Team USA might have been holding something back in group play. Maybe they were, or maybe they're just hitting their stride.

The U.S. obliterated Angola 121-66 in a game that was only close at 0-0. It was 33-13 after the first, 65-38 at the half and in the end, 55 points separated the two teams.

This was easily the Team USA's best offensive performance as the U.S. hit triple-digits for only the second time in the tournament, scored the most points, shot a sizzling 53 percent and knocked down 18 3s on 38 shots. Kevin Durant and Chauncey Billups did most of the damage scoring 17 and 19 points, respectively, with all of Durant's coming in the first half. Rudy Gay and Eric Gordon both added 17 as well.

One of the most impressive and encouraging aspects of the game was the way the U.S. moved the ball. Team USA finished with 28 assists for their 41 made baskets, a pretty incredible number. Plus, the U.S. only turned the ball over four times and didn't have their third until the fourth quarter. It was near flawless offensive execution for the U.S., something that they had struggled with the past three games.

Angola helped some in getting the U.S.'s offense moving though. Angola didn't play hardly any man-to-man defense, but rather deferred to a very soft zone, letting the U.S.'s shooters have almost any look they wanted. Billups, who came in 4-19 on 3s in the previous five games, went 5-7 from deep. Gordon went 5-6 from 3. Derrick Rose hit 3 of 4. It was a shooting gallery for the U.S. and Angola didn't mind.

On top of the soft defense, Angola also never even attempted to control tempo. They were perfectly content with playing at the U.S.'s pace and as a result, didn't have a lot of of offensive consistency. The game was mainly free-flowing, especially on the Angola end. And the Angolans lack of size didn't help either. The U.S. won the boards 43-23 and snagged 19 offensive rebounds.

Angola's top scorer Olimpio Cipriano didn't play because of an injury sustained against Germany, but Joaquim Gomes had a nice night for Angola. He finished with 21 points on 9-12 shooting to lead all scorers.

Moving forward, there's not a ton to take from the game other than it looks like the U.S. is hitting on all cylinders. Which is obviously what you want to be doing heading deeper into the knockout round. The road is going to be much tougher than it was today, with a likely matchup against a quality Russia squad next.

Team USA has off Tuesday and Wednesday and will play the winner of Russia-New Zealand, who play a little later today.
Posted on: September 1, 2010 1:51 pm
Edited on: September 1, 2010 1:53 pm
 

It was a bit ugly, but the U.S. beats Iran 88-51

Posted by Royce Young

In a game that was really decided before it started, Team USA handled Iran 88-51 Wednesday. But despite the lopsided score, there was a bit of a sour taste left after the final whistle.

The first quarter was fairly ugly and the U.S. played relatively sloppy throughout. How does the saying go, you have to walk before you can run? Or something like that? That was Team USA's problem against Iran today, especially in the early going. The U.S. tried to blow out the overmatched Iranians in the first 10 minutes.

It was like they were trying to prove how good they really are in a matter of minutes, instead of just playing within the flow of the game. Everything was rushed offensively, they tried to fast break when it wasn't there, they gambled on passes constantly and forced up a bunch of shots early in the 24. After the first, Team USA only held a six-point lead, 19-13. Commentator Fran Fraschilla compared it well to a 2-seed playing a 15-seed in the NCAA tournament. The final result was likely already decided, but the favored team was just trying too hard.

But eventually the U.S. found its rhythm and started playing its game. What it really took was one player settling down and getting Team USA relaxed and into its game. One would of course expect that to be Kevin Durant, but it turned out to be the other Kevin that provided a much needed spark. In his first four minutes on the floor, Love poured in nine straight points and snagged three boards, as he and Team USA second unit really got the team moving.

The second half was a different story as the U.S. forced turnovers, got in transition and played solid halfcourt offense and defense. Still, it wasn't as crisp as most expect and would like to see, but the fact is Team USA took care of Iran just the way it should. The main positive was the U.S.'s man-to-man defense which was pretty terrific. Iran's slower guards never had a chance to breathe and Hamed Haddadi, Iran's main threat, wasn't able to get many quality touches on the post.

But man, credit Iran. They played as hard as any team I've seen in a double-digit game. Haddadi finished with 19 points and had probably 19 huge smiles. The Iran team had a great attitude throughout and grinded for all 40 minutes. The Iranians deserve a lot of credit for their performance, even if they were on the wrong end of a loss. Iran struggled mightily on offense, shooting only 30 percent and turning the ball over 24 times.

I think most were hoping for a tidy blowout to feel better about the close call against Brazil. And while the U.S. definitely didn't necessarily ease any concerns, in the end it was a 37-point dispatching of an overmatched Iranian squad. The starters didn't play much at all in the second half and after the first two minutes of the second quarter, the game wasn't ever in question. Nobody really stuck out statistically for Team USA as Durant led the way with 12 points, Love 13 and Derrick Rose 11.

Team USA goes to 4-0 and wraps up Group play against Tunisia at 9:30 a.m. ET Thursday.
Posted on: August 30, 2010 4:58 pm
Edited on: August 30, 2010 5:04 pm
 

Team USA slips by feisty Brazil, 70-68

Posted by Royce Young

It took a couple of missed free throws and two missed layups from Brazil inside of five seconds left for Team USA to squeak out a 70-68 victory Monday. The game was close throughout, with Brazil actually leading for a large portion. But Kevin Durant's 27 points and 10 rebounds powered the U.S. past Leandro Barbosa's talented and scrappy Brazil squad.

While obviously a win is what is important, there are a few concerns to point out here. Brazil controlled the tempo of the game and nearly pulled off the win playing without two of its best players in Nene and Anderson Varejao . Plus, we really saw is how vulnerable Team USA can be. While Durant was obviously excellent, there were times in the second half where it was hard to picture where the U.S. would get points from. The crucial possessions became a lot of one-on-one with little ball movement or even really, penetration. It felt like everyone was waiting for a talented teammate to make a play. Team USA scored just nine points in the final frame. The good news is, Brazil only scored nine as well.

It was also interesting how Coach K went with one consistent lineup throughout the entire fourth quarter, and really most of the second half. These guys have played three games in three days since arriving in Turkey and instead of utilizing a really deep bench, the starters stayed in almost the entire 40 minutes. Lamar Odom was clearly fried late in the fourth, Derrick Rose was huffing and puffing and there just wasn't a ton spirit in their steps late. Coach K used Tyson Chandler for a short spell on Tiago Splitter in the third which worked well, but never came back to him. Kevin Love, who was outstanding yesterday, only played a handful of minutes.  There was little Rudy Gay, little Eric Gordon, no Stephen Curry, little Russell Westbrook and no Danny Granger.

But thank goodness for Durant. Without him, Team USA truly wouldn't have had any idea where the points would've come from. Chauncey Billups had 15, but a few questionable pull-ups from him nearly put the U.S. in a tough spot. Example: With about 20 seconds left and time on the shot clock with the U.S. up two, instead of running the offense throughout Durant, Billups handled the ball almost exclusively and hoisted a long 2-pointer. It clanged and gave Brazil a chance to tie or win.

Team USA couldn't get its lightning quick transition game going and therefore, was stuck toiling away in the halfcourt . Billups interestingly ran point over Rose, and honestly, there was just a lot of dribbling, one pass and then a contested shot. It was the kind of offense that surely Jay Triano (the U.S.'s offensive coordinator) had to pull what little hair he has remaining out. Team USA turned the ball over 21 times, with Durant giving it away eight times. I'd call it sloppy, but really it was just bad offense with no fast break opportunities. Brazil only had seven offensive rebounds and tried to limit U.S. run-outs by not crashing the offensive glass and instead getting back. And it clearly worked.

Brazil started out red hot, hitting 12 of its first 16 shots, including five 3s in the first quarter and 7-11 at the half. But the green and gold cooled, finishing around 42 percent and 10-27 from deep. Barbosa , who hit his first three 3-pointers, finished with 14 points on 5-18 shooting, including 3-13 from 3. Marcus Vinicius who spent a little time with the Hornets, had 14 points hitting on 4-5 3s, and Spurs signee Tiago Splitter showcased some of his ability, scoring 13 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Splitter used both hands extremely well and ran the pick-and-roll beautifully. Save for some foul trouble, Splitter had a very nice game.

If anyone is stunned by the close score or how Team USA looked very beatable, you shouldn't be. This U.S. squad isn't invincible. It's very good and in the right kind of game, darn near unbeatable. But against a smart, tactical unit like Brazil with players like Vinicius who can shoot, Splitter who can post and a coach like Ruben Magnano (who was the architect of the 2004 Argentina team that took gold) who is one of the best at game-planning for one specific team, Brazil posed a tough test.

But in the end, the U.S. won the game and moved to 3-0. Don't disrespect Brazil by thinking the Team USA nearly choked one away. It was a good game because Brazil has a very good team. There's not a ton of excuse for the lapse in offensive execution, but still, the U.S. improved to 3-0 taking control of Group B and also care of its three toughest group games in three days. Now it should be able to cakewalk to a 5-0 finish by dispatching Tunisia and Iran in the last two.

Team USA has the day off Tuesday and faces Iran Wednesday at 12 ET.
Posted on: August 29, 2010 12:56 pm
 

Durant leads the U.S. past Slovenia 99-77

"" Posted by Royce Young

Team USA used pressure defense, a massive edge on the glass and some hot shooting to roll past a quality Slovenia squad 99-77 Sunday. Kevin Durant keyed things offensively for the U.S. with 22 on 8-13 shooting while Kevin Love anchored the interior with 10 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.

What worked for the U.S. today against Slovenia was again the formula the Americans have used in previous international games - defense that turns to offense. The U.S. forced turnovers and immediately went into the transition game, but the other thing they did was force almost all long jump shots which led to long rebounds and run-outs. Slovenia had NBA player Primoz Brezec on the inside, but a combination of Love and Lamar Odom did a solid job limited low post touches for the big Slovenian.

And while the U.S. is famously undersized with only one true center on the squad, they outrebounded a much bigger Slovenian team 51-24. Besides Love, Odom added nine boards, Derrick Rose six, Russell Westbrook five and Durant four. It was a lesson in team rebounding and Team USA had everyone hitting the glass, grabbing rebounds and then immediately breaking out into the open court.

Durant showcased how electric and unguardable he can be, scoring 22 points in only about two and half quarters of play. But again, his passing continues to be impressive. He finished with four assists, but as Slovenia focused more on Durant, he dumped off to teammates cutting to the basket. Everyone understands how ridiculous Durant can be as a scorer, but I think the NBA is about to be introduced to a much more well-rounded KD this October.

And while Durant was absolutely stellar, Kevin Love probably gets the game ball. He provided instant energy off the bench, fought on the glass and was able to give some semblance of a post game for the U.S. Tyson Chandler was brought on to play the big man for Team USA, but Love not only played his way into the regular rotation, but might be pushing for a starting spot.

Slovenia planned to rely on Goran Dragic to get his offensive game going, but never did get on track. The Phoenix Suns point guard only had seven points on only 2-8 shooting. Team USA focused on him, hounding him with a combination of Rose and Westbrook, a duo that never let Dragic breathe enough to get his offense going.

Things could have gotten a little tight for the States early as Slovenia cut an early 14-point U.S. lead to five early in the second quarter. The U.S. was in foul trouble almost across the board but weathered a quick Slovenian spurt and busted out of the halftime break with a quick 13-0 run which put Slovenia away.

Team USA will face its toughest test tomorrow against Brazil at 2:30 ET on ESPN.
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 24, 2010 1:58 pm
 

Rajon Rondo withdraws from Team USA

Celtics guard asks to be cut for personal reasons, final roster set.
Posted by Matt Moore

A shocking development came down the pipeline of Team USA today, as Rajon Rondo has been cut from the team, after asking to withdraw for personal reasons . Head of USA basketball Jerry Colangelo thanked Rondo for his effort and commitment and issued a statement of support for the Celtics guard. Rondo had been the starter for Team USA, but had also looked lackadaiscal and dispassionate for long stretches.

The final cut was widely talked about being between Stephen Curry, whose game fits well on the international stage but who has been battling injury, and Russell Westbrook, the lowest name guard on roster. With Rondo out, they both make the team. Losing Rondo hurts in several key areas however. While a lot of talk has been about the lack of shooting on Team USA, an area Rondo was not equipped to help in, his pressure perimeter defense and distribution skills were unmatched among the plethora of guards Coach K and Colangelo decided to take overseas. Losing him means Derrick Rose will need to step up considerably on both sides of the ball to be the distributor, with Chauncey Billups primarily playing shooting guard for the club.

The final Team USA roster, finalized today with Rondo's withdrawal:

Chauncey Billups (Denver Nuggets)
Tyson Chandler (Dallas Mavericks)
Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Rudy Gay (Memphis Grizzlies)
Eric Gordon (Los Angeles Clippers)
Danny Granger (Indiana Pacers)
Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers)
Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Lamar Odom
(Los Angeles Lakers)
Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls)
Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)

The 2010 FIBA World Championships begin Saturday.
 
 
 
 
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