Though not actually about European basketball, last night’s USA 86, Argentina 80 pre-Olympic friendly result leads BallinEurope to put forth a few talking points from the notebook (and highlight clips, of course)…
• Perhaps slightly flawed as a whole, the truth is that Team USA still has the best three players in the world right now in Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Lebron James. The opening 16-1 run was indicative of what this trio is capable. Eschewing playing any sort of serious inside game at all in the first 10 minutes, KD and Kobe teed off enough to outscore the entire Argentine side, 22-16; Lebron meanwhile controlled the D.
• ESPN’s Mark Jones and Fran Fraschilla relentlessly commented on Team USA’s “sloppy game,” yet through 25 minutes, the Red, White and Blues had given up such five TOs. Perhaps the commentators were referring to how much slower the US seemed, giving up a good four breakaways in the second half and innumerable defensive rebounds. Or perhaps certain shooters made them squirm – Deron Williams (1-of-6), Carmelo Anthony (2-of-8) … BiE’s looking at you.
• Speaking of Melo, BiE wonders about a problem here. For years, word in international media has been that Anthony is a prototype FIBA baller with good size, mobility and outstanding range for a dude put in the 4 spot for Team USA. On paper, Anthony’s still got the skills but aside from just one brief moment last night (a solid 20-footer in the second quarter), the New York Knick has yet to show.
• Was it BiE or, whoa, did Kevin Love a bit out of sorts when put in the no. 5? Within one possession of the assignment, Love had notched a quick foul in a daze; Coach K quickly pulled the Timberwolf and shifted Lebron over, a move Team USA backers have been awaiting. While Love is no center, the current plan has him getting minutes here in lieu of big bodies beyond Tyson Chandler: In this one, he got seven. Anthony and Love both cold going into London doesn’t bode very well for the defending gold medallists.
• And on to Chandler … While the first-quarter barrage was going on, Argentina gave Team USA’s starting center little attention – a desirable situation for the US, allowing Chandler to perform his glass-cleaning role on a squad of deadshots. Unfortunately for his side, Chandler’s aggression may have been dialed too high, resulting in a vaguely Rodmanesque stat line: 0 points on 0-for-0 shooting, eight rebounds, four fouls in 13 minutes played.
• Luis Scola and Manu Ginobili demonstrated some archetypical scrappiness – the former getting KD’s face, the latter registering a flagrant on Lebron – which was admirable on one hand, but over the top on the other. Okay, Luis, Manu, you can play with the Durants and Jameses, but this isn’t 2002; no statements about the fall of the Team USA empire are necessary.
• At point guard, the US’ troika of D-Will, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook was hot and cold. Despite some pretty poster feeds from CP3 and Westbrook’s desire to charge the lane (he went 6-of-7 from the FT line), the 5-of-17 production from the PG spot cannot continue. The weak link here may be Williams. Sure, he went for a mess of buckets against Britain, but if Kobe and his ilk can suppress the shoot-first mentality for the betterment of Team USA, can’t D-Will…?
• Question: How concerned should Team USA be about this…? If Team Argentina is a measuring stick, then Spain could have reached maximum scariness for the USA with its 20-point win. Forget the big men – no, wait, don’t forget the big men; Los Rojos played without Marc Gasol, injured in a game against Australia, and still topped Argentina in boards. Meanwhile, Team Spain went for 16 threes in the game, a number the US will have to counter with its strong perimeter defense – and not the slack meter-off-the-man defense that allowed about a zillion long balls from Ginobili and Carlos Delfino in the second half – while not allowing the ball inside. Tuesday night’s match should be a true test, indeed.
• Finally, there ain’t gonna be any “Lebron Hop Step” in the Olympics. Notice how the officials whistled King James twice for travelling on a move taken for granted in the NBA? This isn’t the Sydney Games, mate. No kangaroos allowed.