TrueHoop: 2012 Team USA

Monday Bullets

October, 1, 2012
10/01/12
3:06
PM ET
  • Some advanced stats are still controversial, I guess. But it's laughable to me that any coach, GM or other hoops professional would mock, or prefer not to know, for example this, from John Hollinger, talking about J.J. Hickson: "Unfortunately, his proclivity for midrange jumpers that don't find the basket remains intact. Hickson tried 144 between the two locales and made only 29.9 percent of them, accounting for more than a third of his shot attempts."
  • Kevin Love says every guy on the Olympic team -- LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kobe Bryant are mentioned by name -- are great guys. It's a good time to be the NBA.
  • DeAndre Jordan, funny guy/alleged polluter.
  • Andre Iguodala does not want to be labeled as a facilitator, wants to remind people he shot well from 3 last season, wants to keep all his offensive options open, wants to be an All-Star many times, and says he may play some point guard.
  • Tyreke Evans and Blake Griffin are also on the list of players who want to make sure people know they can shoot now.
  • Mark Cuban says that if somebody buys an NBA team and submits a proposal to move it to Seattle, he'd be shocked if any NBA owner would oppose the move.
  • J.A. Adande takes a crack at describing Lamar Odom's dreadful 2011-2012 NBA play: "He explained last season this way: 'I wasn't over a lot of the things I've been through. Sometimes when you go through certain things, other things that you've been through in the past might resurface.' It makes sense. I think there was a delayed reaction to the death of his infant son in the summer of 2006. If there were a logical time for Odom's play to spiral down the drain it would have been that year. Instead he came out playing some of the best ball of his life, on track for a career-high average of more than 18 points per game through the first 20 games of the season. Knee and shoulder injuries knocked him off that track, but his final average of 15.9 points still was the highest of his seven seasons with the Lakers. It was as if he put the grief in a locker for storage. He once told the Los Angeles Times, 'When I had to bury my child, I probably didn't start grieving until a year and a half later.' In the same interview, he added ominously, 'Death always seems to be around me.'"
  • Surreal Philadelphia scene. Heroin sold in tiny bags labeled "LeBron James" with an image of a player dunking.
  • The Knicks daily create openings for the Nets to become the favorite team of New Yorkers.
  • Kendrick Perkins says Thunder guard Eric Maynor, who spent last season recovering from ACL surgery, is back and better than ever, even dunking.
  • The best in the league from the pinch post.
  • On video: What Boris Diaw does that works for the Spurs. Includes the phrase "use opponent's athleticism against them" which I imagine will attract the attention of aging ballers in YMCAs the world over.
  • Wow. As a young stud, Byron Scott dunked on Purvis Short (video). They had words after Scott preened in a manner that would not be allowed today. Later in the same game, Scott headed down the right wing on the break, eager to end all debate by dunking on Short again. Short was having none of it, going hard with the body contact. But Scott took the contact and threw it down very hard anyway. This link is via a fun Cavs: The Blog post called Ten Things to Like About Bryon Scott.
  • Do the Pistons have a roster spot for Ben Wallace? Is that really still an open question? Shouldn't this have been settled ages ago?
  • Andrew Bynum will sit three weeks after getting the German knee procedure Kobe Bryant got last summer, and it's easy to get that "here we go again" feeling that has hung over both the Sixers and Bynum for years. For what it's worth, Bryant looked uncomfortable last summer at a Players Association press conference, when he was recovering from his own version of it. However, Bryant went on to have a remarkably spry season, given his position and age.
  • The Bulls have a way of making these things complicated, but after some worries over the summer, the Bulls have signed Tom Thibodeau to a four-year contract extension. They had already picked up his option for the upcoming season, so by my math that means he'll be in Chicago through 2016-2017.

Q&A with movie star Kevin Durant

August, 22, 2012
8/22/12
1:35
AM ET
Stein By Marc Stein
ESPN.com
Archive
DALLAS -- Tired?

Why would Kevin Durant be tired?

So what if he had to rush from the NBA Finals to Team USA training camp in Las Vegas less than two weeks later and then start promoting his new movie almost immediately after returning from a month in Europe that culminated with a gold-medal game even closer than the United States feared it would be?

"I'm 23," Durant said Tuesday at a news conference in Dallas in advance of Friday's regional release of "Thunderstruck."

"I can handle a lot. This Is what I signed up for. ... It's a good problem to have."

Sitting between his mother, Wanda Pratt, and veteran actor Jim Belushi -- both of them co-stars in the new Warner Bros. release -- Durant spoke excitedly about his attempts to make Oklahoma City "more and more Hollywood" after much of the filming was done in OKC, which was also the site of Sunday's premiere.

And before the news conference, Durant sat down with ESPN.com for a few minutes of one-on-one to discuss a variety of pertinent topics:

Q: Everyone seems to be impressed with your acting skills. Sounds like you did pretty well for a first-timer.

A: Yeah, I did all right. I was having fun with it. It was different for me. I'm just so used to playing basketball. But it was cool.

Q: Have you seen the whole movie start-to-finish by now?

A: I watched it for the first time Sunday and I was very impressed. Before I only saw the scenes that I was in. It was sort of like a surprise to me when I saw it the first time. Very cool.

Q: It's only been about a week since the Olympics and here you are on a press junket for your movie. What are your plans for the rest of the summer? Is there any rest in there, or now will we start to see you popping up at pickup games like last summer?

A: I think I'm just going to work out, get my cardio back up. If anybody knows me, I probably won't stop [playing]. But I'm going to have to force myself, too. I know rest is very important, just as important as getting better on the basketball court. I gotta make sure I get my proper rest [to be] ready for the start of training camp.

Q: To know that Serge [Ibaka] just re-signed, how reassuring is that?

A: It's a really big deal. I'm happy for him, first of all, him and his family. He worked so hard to get that [extension] and I'm just excited that he's signed on for four more years and really believes in us.

He easily could have said no, waited for next summer, played well this year and got more [money]. But he sacrificed for us and we appreciate him for that. He's the ultimate team player.

Q: But you know us in the media. We're always going to talk about what happens next and that means James Harden's deal. How involved will you get in trying to make sure that James stays?

A: I want James to be here with us, of course. He's one of my closest friends. Hopefully it works out, that's all I can say.

I haven't asked [Thunder GM] Sam [Presti] about anything and I haven't asked James about anything. I'm just going to let that take care of itself, be the best teammate I can be and hopefully by the time camp starts we have him locked up.

Q: But he has a lot of incentive to wait until the summer to become a restricted free agent. How worried will you be if there's no extension [by the Oct. 31 deadline]?

A: I'm not a big worrier. I always believe things are going to be all right and that everything's going to work out on its own.

Q: So I guess that means you're not worried about the Lakers. Are the Thunder still the favorites in the West?

A: Who knows? It's different every year. What we did last year is out the door, though. We can't bring that into the new season. The target is going to be on our back, just like it has been for the last two years.

Q: How nervous were you that you guys could actually lose the gold-medal game to Spain?

A: I wasn't. Because we had so many guys that can change the game with one play. We got the Kobes and LeBrons and Melos and CP3s and D-Wills and Russells. We knew that team was going to be bigger than us and we knew they were going to pound it down low to try to beat us, but it feels really good, just to see how well we came together as a unit and how happy everybody was for each other.

I remember when Melo went on that tear and he scored 37 points in 14 minutes, everybody was so excited for him. Everybody was happy that he broke the [American] scoring record [in the Olympics]. When LeBron got his triple-double, guys in the locker room were so happy for him. It was just fun to be a part of. You could tell that everyone was just focused on team.

What delights Chris Paul

August, 16, 2012
8/16/12
8:46
AM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
Chris Paul and Team USA
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
"I hate that in a couple months these guys are going to be my enemies," says Chris Paul.

"The bond and the camaraderie," says coach Mike Krzyzewski of the 2012 Team USA, "I would take ours over anybody."

"We built camaraderie," says Andre Iguodala. "We worked hard together, we sacrificed for one another. ... Just to be a part of that is amazing. It just shows all the hard work every individual has put in since we were a young age, what’s been instilled in us to get to this point."

Chris Paul may have been the most delighted of all: "This is the most fun time of my life; ‘08 was all good and well but there was something about our 2012 team that was just special. I hate that this was our last game playing together. It’s something that we’ll never forget."

It's a fantastic story. Be proud, America. A team of superstars became a real team, won gold in London and evidently had an amazing time doing it. They sacrificed for each other, and, perhaps most importantly, reveled in the fact that every one of them does things in a top-notch fashion on every play. Imagine the pleasure in knowing your teammates will always be spectacular.

John Stockton knows what that's about. In Jack McCallum's "Dream Team" he talks about how on 1992's Dream Team, the delight was in making the transition, from teammates who are sometimes in the wrong place, or lack the right skills, to teammates who do it all just about perfectly. Think about what happens in the brains of point guards like Stockton and Paul -- whose careers depend on seeing the chess pieces better than everybody else. Great chess pieces mean a lot.

They played the right way, and it was lovely. There is no appropriate reaction but to smile.



Here's where things get far trickier, however: What if Paul wants to get him some more of that? What if after enjoying great teammates on Team USA he decides, when he's a free agent next summer, to seek out great teammates to play with every night of the NBA season?

Are you happy for him then?

Recent history suggests the reaction of most fans is: Hell no.

Consider what happened to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. They fell in love with the idea of playing together while on Team USA (not coincidentally, while Heat owner Micky Arison's son Nick was involved with the team). That's where they learned it was possible to have teammates who delighted, instead of disappointed. Teammates who worked as hard as they did.

They banded together to get more of that ... and people killed them for it. (Even Magic Johnson, who had once done something similar.)

But how can that celebrated and healthy summer urge to have the best camaraderie imaginable become a sinister force in the fall? If Chris Paul decides to seek out superstar teammates, on the Clippers or elsewhere, would that really make him a bad guy?

The all-Olympics team

August, 13, 2012
8/13/12
1:50
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
In North America, international basketball is often regarded as a novelty act -- a sideshow with funny rules, bizarre dimensions and lots of guys who look like rockers. Teams run sprawling offensive schemes that often look like something out of an instructional video. Won't someone just explode off a pick already?!

But the 2012 Olympics, which ended Sunday, proved again that international competition is thriving. For two weeks, a world of players and teams with diverse skills battled for global prestige, and they did it in style. There's a reason that millionaires love playing for their countries. It's an inordinately rewarding way to express your identity as a basketball player in the context of something much larger than yourself.

Here's our all-London team:

First team


lastnameGasol
Pau Gasol, Spain
What makes Spain so much fun to watch? It's Gasol's team, something we rarely witness in the NBA. When La Roja suit up, they're led by Gasol in the high post. His vision guides the guards to open spots, and his fluent read of the game creates opportunities.

When the Spanish fell behind big against Russia in the semifinals, Gasol changed course after halftime, getting quick touches before shuttling the ball across the court to his shooters. He posted, passed out, then reposted. This movement was precisely what the Spaniards needed against Russia's tight defense, and that adjustment had to come from Gasol. Jose Calderon hit the big shots, but Gasol facilitated them with his instincts and feel.

In the gold-medal game, Gasol's 24 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists gave Spain a shot at the improbable. For the tournament, Gasol put up an average line of 19.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.

lastnameJames
LeBron James, United States
For James, who had cemented himself as the most dominant player in the world during his 2011-12 NBA championship run, the gold medal was probably more of a statement than an achievement. He deferred to teammates during the early stages of group play, then again when the celebration started at North Greenwich Arena on Sunday. In between, he was the Americans' safety valve.

His line in London wasn't gaudy -- 13.3 points per game on 60.3 percent shooting from the field, 5.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists -- but when the 3-pointers weren't falling for the red, white and blue and opposing defenses began to gather confidence, Team USA could turn to James. In those instances, he would drive and dish, dive off the weak side where Chris Paul or Deron Williams could hit him on the move, or simply blow by helpless defenders with a single dribble and a burst to the basket, as he did with four fouls in a tight gold-medal game against Spain. All the while, James acted as the team's de facto center when Tyson Chandler was off the floor, defending the biggest guys in the most crucial moments.

lastnameGinobili
Manu Ginobili, Argentina
Back when he was still known as Emanuel Ginobili to the rest of the world and before he ever suited up in black and silver, Manu led an Argentine national team that handed a mortifying defeat to the Americans in 2002 at the FIBA World Championship in Indianapolis. Two years later, Ginobili dropped 29 points on the Americans in the Olympic semifinal round en route to a gold medal for the Argentines.

As much as the hire of Mike Krzyzewski, those losses to Argentina inspired American NBA stars to renew their commitment to international competition. Argentina didn't medal in London, but a 35-year-old Ginobili continued his mastery of the world stage. In eight games, Ginobili averaged 19.4 points (third among all players), 5.4 rebounds (more than any other guard in Olympic play) and 4.1 assists. He led a tiny, somewhat depleted team that had grown old in the tooth to the brink of the podium. Ginobili is unlikely to suit up in Rio de Janeiro, and world basketball will be poorer for it.

lastnameDurant
Kevin Durant, United States
Every team needs a microwave, a guy whose penchant for unconscious shooting in uncanny spurts can single-handedly put an opponent away. Durant was repeatedly that sniper for the Americans over the eight games in London. In both games against Argentina -- first in group play, then in the semifinals -- Durant's barrage of 3-balls in the third quarter put tense, chippy games out of reach. There were no lapses in defenses by the Argentines nor any clever schemes drawn up by the American bench. Durant's combination of remarkable size and a quick trigger was simply incapable of being defended.

Back in Las Vegas after a friendly against the Dominican Republic, Durant flashed a bright smile when asked how much easier those 18 inches or so made the international 3-point shot, and his proficiency in London was all the evidence in the world. Durant went 34-for-65 from beyond the arc in the eight games and averaged 19.5 points per game, second only to Patty Mills.

lastnameKirilenko
Andrei Kirilenko, Russia
There isn't a more effective, intuitive player at cutting off the ball to make a play than Kirilenko. Time and again in London, just when you thought the Russian offense grounded to a halt, there was Kirilenko dashing into the lane for a catch and an easy 2. Kirilenko was equally crafty on the other side of the ball. The Russians repeatedly switched up their defense over the two weeks of competition, and Kirilenko was one of the primary reasons that coach David Blatt's defense was so flexible. Kirilenko was the tournament's best weakside defender.

He ranked third in blocks and steals, sixth in scoring and eighth in rebounding. Although he wasn't accurate from the outside, he still tallied a field goal percentage of 54 percent, a testimony to his shot selection and general smarts. Few projected the Russians to stand on the podium on Sunday night, but Kirilenko's contributions elevated them.


Second team


lastnameMills
Patty Mills, Australia
Mills drilled the shot of the Olympics when he flared to the top of the circle with his team trailing by two to the undefeated Russians. With 1.8 seconds left, Mills caught a pass from Joe Ingles, then launched the shot against two closing defenders. The ball fell through, one of several big shots Mills drilled for the Boomers, a team that probably had less pure talent on the floor than any other that survived group play. Mills was the only Olympian who averaged greater than 20 points per game (21.5) and was the spark Australia needed against more sophisticated schemes and explosive squads.

lastnameScola
Luis Scola, Argentina
Talk about a guy with a tough assignment. Here's 6-foot-8, 32-year-old Scola essentially functioning as Argentina's big man against topflight opponents. Every game, he had to fight for position against defenses keying in on him below the foul line, but he repeatedly won those one-on-one battles. We saw it in the semifinal, when Scola was confronted early by Tyson Chandler one-on-one. Scola shrugged, went middle and elevated with a hook over the 7-footer. When the ball was high, he sneaked behind unsuspecting defenders to set up underneath the basket, where teammates always seemed to find him. Overall, Scola was tremendous, putting up 18 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.

Ingles
Joe Ingles, Australia
A national team without a lot of raw athleticism or transcendent talent crashed the quarterfinals with wiliness and savvy, and the Australian big man brought that consistently for Australia. That game-winning pass to Mills was just a taste of Ingles' heady play. He also routinely checked guys who could've flattened him in just about any other context. When the Boomers threw improvisational double-teams at unsuspecting offenses, Ingles was usually the guy applying pressure, then scampering back to his original assignment. The Aussie forward finished the Olympics with 15 points, 5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game and was a paragon of consistency.

lastnameAnthony

Carmelo Anthony, United States
For a while, Anthony was scoring a point per minute for the Americans. He'd check in, set up on the right side, wait for cross-court passes against a loaded defense, then fire away. He went downright insane in the historic 156-73 drubbing of Nigeria during group play, going off for 37 points on 10-for-12 3-point shooting in a mere 14 minutes of court time. That explosion was one of the most unprecedented, self-contained scoring exhibitions we'll ever see in organized basketball. Anthony also produced in two skittish games for the Americans -- the close call against Lithuania and the semifinal versus Argentina.

Huertas
Marcelinho Huertas, Brazil
Are the shooting numbers great? Not really. But the electrifying point guard put a depleted, underperforming group of Brazilian veterans on his back into the quarterfinals. When he got there, Huertas drained a slew of 3-pointers from well behind the line, a barrage that punched the Argentines in the mouth in the first half. Huertas is a master of controlling space and tempo, an old-school point guard with a few new-school tricks. He was the second-leading assist man in London at six dimes per game, behind only Argentina's Pablo Prigioni, and averaged 11.3 points per game for a Brazilian team that outperformed expectations despite getting very little from its big men.

Honorable mentions: Carlos Delfino, Argentina; Kevin Love, United States; Alexey Shved, Russia; Yi Jianlian, China; Joel Freeland, Great Britain; Leandro Barbosa, Brazil; Chris Paul, United States; Nicolas Batum, France; Marc Gasol, Spain; Boris Diaw, France.

Flop of the Night: Rudy Fernandez

August, 13, 2012
8/13/12
12:24
PM ET
Mason By Beckley Mason
ESPN.com
Archive
Rudy Fernandez
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images
Andre Iguodala touched Fernandez's leg, and touched off a Shakespearean death scene.

Despite the acting reputations of American players like Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade, many still see European hoopers as the masters of flopping. In the gold medal game between Team USA and Team Spain, former NBA player Rudy Fernandez fulfilled the stereotype.

You may remember how the Olympic quarterfinals between Spain and France took an ugly turn when France’s Nicolas Batum took a closed-fisted swing at the groin of Spanish guard Juan-Carlos Navarro.

Batum’s reported motivation: “I wanted to give him a good reason to flop.”

Navarro may have actually been paying for the flopping of Rudy Fernandez, who exaggerated his fall to draw an intentional foul after colliding with Ronny Turiaf moments before Batum went after Navarro. Now that’s patriotism.

Fast forward to the gold medal game, where Fernandez reprised the role of flopping villain (Video); this time it was Andre Iguodala who picked up the intentional foul. As Iguodala dived to the floor after a loose ball, he briefly grabbed at Fernandez to prevent the Spaniard from reaching the ball. Fernandez responded by lashing his head backward and spinning violently to the ground.

Said Doug Collins, who was calling the game for NBC, “Rudy is one of the all time good actors. Rudy looked like he got shot on that play on the way down but you know what? When acting is rewarded go ahead and do it.”

The acting exhibition was worthwhile for Fernandez and Spain. By drawing an intentional, rather than a common foul, Fernandez converted a loose ball into two free throws and possession. That could have ended up as a four- or five-point swing in a game that went down to the wire.

First Cup: Monday

August, 13, 2012
8/13/12
5:02
AM ET
  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: Go ahead, roll your eyes if you like. But if you saw this game — if you heard the players talking about it afterward — you'd understand. For American players, a gold medal doesn't compare to an NBA title. But it matters to them. Deeply. They want to be part of this team. They revel in the camaraderie. They've represented the U.S. impeccably. Eight years ago, the American team was an embarrassment on and off the court. Those days are gone. Now Kobe Bryant can be seen at every Olympic event you can think of, taking it all in, cheering for the athletes of the world. Now Paul talks about standing on the podium and says the feeling is bittersweet. "It's sweet because you've got a gold medal around your neck," Paul said. "It's tough because you don't get this opportunity any more. I hate that in a couple months these guys are going to be my enemies. This is the funnest time in my life."
  • Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post: Throw in Sunday’s hard-fought 107-100 victory over Spain with the run to gold in Beijing four years ago, and LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and newcomer Kevin Durant have done what the “Dream Team” did a generation ago: restored U.S. basketball to a dominant spot. Along the way, a group of players from the NBA, a league that is often criticized for an emphasis on individualism over team play, became a fun-loving, ball-sharing team.
  • Dan Bickley of The Arizona Republic: When it was over, Anthony Davis couldn't believe his luck. He was on the floor, forever immortalized in the Olympic box score. He was also holding the basketball, having rebounded Spain's final miss of the game. The same thing happened when Kentucky won the NCAA title a few months ago. "I guess I just have the knack," he said. Not that Davis could savor the moment. He quickly was assaulted by teammate Chris Paul, who took the prize away. Paul delivered it to an awaiting Team USA staff member, who cradled the ball with two hands, like a running back trying not to fumble, and quickly scampered off. The thievery was choreographed so FIBA couldn't get its hands on the basketball. Good thing, too. "I was going to throw it up in the air," Davis said. When the players wandered into the interview area, James Harden was stationed next to Andre Iguodala, Sun Devil and Wildcat. It was a nice touch, but both players appeared a bit overwhelmed. "Unbelievable feeling," Harden said. "Hard to explain." That gold medal had done something unexpected. "It's heavy. It's a big medal," Iguodala said. "This is something you're going to have forever. This is a story within itself; this is a book within itself."
  • John Niyo of The Detroit News: In the final minutes, Mike Krzyzewski jumped in the air as if he were LeBron James. Soon after, he was hugging the man himself, with tears in his eyes and a shirt soaked by a celebratory water bucket. This is what you expect from a championship team. But for the U.S. men's basketball team, this is still quite a sight. And a sign of just how far USA Basketball has come in the last decade, thanks in large part to the efforts of its even-keeled chairman, Jerry Colangelo, and his hand-picked coach. Sunday's 107-100 victory over Spain was a testament to their work, even as it affirmed the lessons learned from the failures of their predecessors: a sixth-place finish at the 2002 World Championships and the debacle of 2004, when the Larry Brown-coached Americans lost three times and were lucky to come home with a bronze medal.
  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: If you're going to chant "U-S-A!" then you're going to finally have to give it up for Coach K and The King. Mike Krzyzewski and LeBron James didn't really need this hassle, but six years ago they committed to it, and on Sunday they continued their journey to keep the U.S. on top of the world with a 107-100 victory over Spain for a second consecutive USA Olympic men's basketball gold medal. After which, appropriately, it was James who doused Krzyzewski with a cooler of water, royalty crowning royalty. Said Krzyzewski: "Those are good moments." Said James: "We've been through it all."
  • Rick Telander of Chicago Sun-Times: Mike Krzyzewski is stepping down now. He has done enough, having led the United States to the last two Olympic golds and the 2010 world championship. But the challenge is only going to be greater. Who will replace him? Colangelo says he hasn’t thought about that yet. But Krzyzewski is a gem. As Colangelo said: ‘‘It’s not that he’s a college coach; it’s that [the pros] respect him.’’ They do — even players such as Deron Williams and Tyson Chandler, who didn’t play much against Spain because their styles bug Krzyzewski. ‘‘We should expect excellence,’’ Krzyzewski said in his swan song. ‘‘The other people can be excellent, too. We’re not going to win all of them. The others are too good.’’ Not during Coach K’s reign, they weren’t.
  • David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune: For two weeks, the millionaires on Team USA acted like exemplary basketball ambassadors. When Krzyzewski said the other day during a press conference Team USA had two goals — "To win the gold medal and represent U.S. basketball the right way." — it sounded like a corny line out of a Duke brochure. Yet there was James, in all his Olympic glory, humbly deflecting praise the way he obviously had been coached. "It's about the three letters on the chest," James said. "For us, it's all about the USA." Not to mention the letter K — as in Coach K — whose stamp was all over their gold medals.
  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: If your franchise players are going to spend the summer playing for some other entity, at least you hope they get something out of it that benefits your organization. And I don't mean three gold medals and a silver, even though that trumps three silvers and a gold, which would have occurred had Serge Ibaka's Spaniards not fallen short to the Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden Americans, 107-100. Maybe a month playing for Mike Krzyzewski and his U.S. coaching staff, and with all-stars like LeBron, Carmelo, Pau Gasol, Kobe and Chris Paul, will help crystallize for the Thunder stars what they need to do to improve. Or maybe not. The Baby Boomers have been notable for an exemplary attitude, void of arrogance, and remarkable improvement each year they've been together. But when you keep hearing the same thing from the same voices, the lesson can be lost. A new coach, with a new twist on the same message, can make for fresher ears.
  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: One of the first questions to Marc Gasol was about the officiating that put him on the bench after four first-half fouls. "There are too many kids watching at home to talk about the referees," he said. "In order to respect their players, our players and the game of basketball as a whole, it would be damaging to the game to talk about that. It was a beautiful game." The guy just absolutely gets it, doesn't he? Maybe that's why so many Memphians were pulling for Spain. But Gasol represented the city well Sunday, even in defeat. He scored 17 points in 17 minutes and then was utterly gracious afterwards. "I wish we could have won," he said. "But it was a wonderful game." ... Gasol wouldn't say whether he would be in Rio, but this is almost certainly the last Olympics for Pau Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro. ... Gasol said he plans to take a few days off, then get back to work on his game. He said he's excited for the NBA season to begin.
  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: This is all about you now Dwight. You get to play in the City of Angels with the greatest competitor on the planet since Michael Jordan. You get to high-five Jack Nicholson every home game at court-side. You get to leave our Podunk little village and literally become the biggest giant in Los Angeles. And most importantly, you get to rewrite your narrative. The book on you know is this: You are a petulant child who held his breath until the Orlando Magic turned blue, blinked, and traded away their future for another rebuilding project. Let’s be clear on this: You are to be commended, applauded, cheered, fill-in-your-own shiny adjective, for seven great years in Orlando. And you also deserve a kick in the pants _ and a few burned jerseys _ for the final year here in which you became a Diva in Distress.
  • Tom Moore of phillyBurbs.com: That Bynum is one of the largest — not to mention best — centers in the NBA is no accident. When the Sixers’ management and coaches looked at their roster after losing to the Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, they knew they wanted to address their lack of size. Offseason pickups Nick Young (6-7), Dorell Wright (6-9), Kwame Brown (6-11) and Richardson (6-6) are all of at least average height for their positions. The 6-8 Thaddeus Young, who typically plays power forward off the bench, would seem to be the only undersized player on the roster. The starting unit is likely to include Jrue Holiday (6-4), Evan Turner (6-7), Spencer Hawes (7-1), Bynum (7-0) and either Nick Young, Richardson or Wright. “We’ve gotten bigger, stronger and more athletic than we were at this time last year,” Thorn said. “We’re looking forward to being a big team rather than a small team, like were before.” Thorn believes that should help the Sixers in the rebounding and defensive departments.
  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: The sounds of hammers and drills are common these days at the Palace. The home of the Pistons is in the midst of a $13-million to $15-million remodeling job that started shortly after Tom Gores acquired the Pistons last summer. But despite the disarray, one can feel a positive vibe while walking through the work areas with Palace Sports & Entertainment president Dennis Mannion. In addition to the Palace improvements, orders for new season-ticket packages recently surpassed last season's numbers -- although that was to be expected considering the dark cloud of the NBA lockout last year. Mannion, who hasn't been on the job for a full year, said things are on the upswing despite the Pistons' run of four straight losing seasons.

3-pointers distinguished Team USA, Durant

August, 12, 2012
8/12/12
1:36
PM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
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Getty Images/ Christian Petersen
Kevin Durant had plenty to celebrate on his record-setting, gold medal-winning day.


Kevin Durant may not have won an NBA championship this past summer, but he can take pride in being the best of the best at the most important time in this year's Olympics.

Team USA's 107-100 win over Spain gave it 14 gold medals in men's basketball, 17 straight Olympic wins, and 50 straight wins in International play.

How they won
Durant set a Team USA record for scoring in a gold medal game with 30 points. He was the fifth player in Team USA history to score at least 30 points in an Olympic game, joining Adrian Dantley (30, 1976), Charles Barkley (30, 1992), Stephon Marbury (31, 2004), and teammate Carmelo Anthony (37, 2012).

Durant’s 156 points are the most by a Team USA player in a single Olympics, surpassing the mark of 145 set by Spencer Haywood in 1968.

Durant finished as the high scorer among all players in this year’s Olympics, edging Manu Ginobili (155) and Pau Gasol (153).

Durant’s 34 3-pointers are also the most by any Team USA player in Olympics history.

That’s twice as many as the record heading into this year’s Olympics (Reggie Miller 17 in 1996, Kobe Bryant 17 in 2008).

Durant took huge advantage of a closer 3-point line in international play. He shot 52 percent from 3-point range in the Olympics after shooting 37 percent in the regular season and 39 percent in the playoffs.

The United States averaged 16 3-pointers per game in Olympics play and shot 44 percent from long range in the competition. No other team averaged double-figures in 3-pointers per game, or shot better than 38 percent on those shots.

LeBron James scored some big points late, finishing with 19 for the game. His 273 career points in Olympic play are second-most all-time to David Robinson’s 280.

James joined Michael Jordan (1992) as the only players to win an NBA title, NBA MVP award and a gold medal in the same year.

Offensively, Team USA played in a little different manner than it had in its previous games this Olympics. It recorded only 13 assists on its 34 baskets (38 percent of them). Entering the day, Team USA players assisted on 63 percent of scores.

On defense, the United States clamped down on Spain’s 3-point shooting. Spain was 7-for-13 on 3-pointers in the first half but did not make any of its six attempts in the last 20 minutes.

Historic comparison
Those who compare the 1992 team to the 2012 team can point out three advantages for the 1992 squad.

The “Dream Team” averaged 117.3 points and won by an average of almost 44 points to the 2012 team’s 115.5 and 32. The 1992 squad also did not have a single-digit win in its eight games. The 2012 team had two of them, including Sunday’s.

Medal tally
With golds in wrestling and men’s basketball, the United States set a team record for its most golds in an Olympics on foreign soil, breaking a longtime mark set in Paris in 1924 and matched in Mexico City in 1968.

There are more events now (302, compared to 172 in 1968), though there are also more countries participating (204 in 2012, 112 in 1968).

Jim Boeheim on Team USA

August, 11, 2012
8/11/12
12:12
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
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Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, an assistant for Team USA, is contributing a journal to the Syracuse Post-Standard.

Boeheim has seen it all in his prolific career as a titan of college basketball, but even he finds himself blown away by the collection of talent the Americans put on the floor against some pretty stiff competition.

In his most current post for the Post-Standard, Boeheim keys on what it means to have LeBron James as the sharpest tool in Team USA's shed:
Everybody knew [Spain was] the best team we’d face, and now we've got them. It’s down to the two of us for the gold. It should be a really good game. They played us close in ’08 in Beijing, so they’re going to be confident and they’re going to give us the best that they've got. I know that.

I also know this: I’m glad we have LeBron on our side. He’s just so dominant. He’s so physically imposing that there’s stuff he does out there on both offense and defense that is hard to imagine. Because everybody knows his offense, sometimes you don’t notice his defense. But he’s all over the court at that end.

Look at what he did to Argentina. He got 18 points, seven rebounds, seven assists . . . and it was just another game for him. His leadership, his maturity, his attention to detail -- all of that is so much improved. He simply does everything well.

And here’s a little secret: It’s one thing to have physical talent, and LeBron’s got more of that than anybody. But to be smart, too? Well, that's LeBron. He’s a really smart player. He just knows how to play basketball. And on top of everything else, he’s a good guy. He’s got a great sense of humor. He’s low-key. He minds his own business. LeBron is fun to watch and he’s fun to be around.

Boeheim also extends a ton of respect for Argentina, a team that has repeatedly pushed the Americans to revitalize its national program over the past decade and become a more disciplined squad. But Boeheim also recognizes that as golden as this age has been for the Argentines, there are few teams in the world that can check Kevin Durant when he's being ... Kevin Durant:
You kind of have to feel for those guys on the Argentina team. Their good players are getting older and they can only go hard for a certain amount of time, so after a while they wear down.

And then, they have to deal with somebody like Kevin Durant.

Think about it. You’re playing as hard as you can and you're getting tired . . . and then a 6-foot-11 guy comes down, stops and makes ‘threes’ on you. Man, that’s got to be tough. It’s got to be demoralizing. No question about it.

That’s what happened on Friday night when we beat Argentina 109-83 in the medal-round semifinals.

'Melo's improved jumper is golden for USA

August, 11, 2012
8/11/12
12:29
AM ET
By Ryan Feldman
ESPN Stats & Info
Archive

Lars Baron/Getty ImagesCarmelo Anthony has been the most prolific scorer in the London Olympics.
Carmelo Anthony has been a man possessed in the Olympics.

He’s scoring 48.2 points per 48 minutes in the Olympics despite never averaging more than 36.3 points per 48 minutes in any of his nine NBA seasons.

Only one player in NBA history has averaged as many points per 48 minutes in an NBA season as Carmelo is averaging in the Olympics. That was Wilt Chamberlain (49.8) in 1961-62.

He's making over eight 3-pointers per 48 minutes. He's never made as many as two 3-pointers per 48 minutes in an NBA season. The most 3-pointers per 48 minutes in a season in NBA history is 5.3 by J.R. Smith in 2007-08.

Keep in mind the FIBA 3-point line is more than a foot and a half closer than the NBA 3-point line.

But even if Carmelo was playing without a 3-point line and every basket counted as two points, he'd still be averaging 39.9 points per 48 minutes, which would still be more than every player in the NBA last season and 13th-most all-time.

Sure, one can argue the competition in the Olympics doesn't compare to the NBA. But Carmelo is averaging nearly 13 more points per 48 minutes than any other USA player. Every other USA player is around or below their per 48 minutes average from last season.

Why has been Carmelo been so efficient offensively?

He's shooting 53 percent on jump shots, tops of any Olympian with at least 25 attempts.

During the 2011-12 NBA season, he shot 35 percent on jump shots, which ranked 32nd of 37 players with at least 400 attempts.

Similarly, Carmelo has drastically improved on guarded catch-and-shoot jumpers the last couple seasons. His percentage skyrocketed from 29 in 2009-10 to 47 last season, which ranked 5th of the 134 players with at least 50 attempts. Giving extra value to 3-pointers, he had the 3rd-highest effective field-goal percentage of those same 134 players.

Maybe he's shooting so well because he's getting a ton of open shots? Not really. Only 35 percent of his catch-and-shoot jumpers have been unguarded in the Olympics. In the 2011-12 NBA season, more than half of his catch-and-shoot jumpers were unguarded. But he shot just 28 percent on those shots last season, which ranked 194th of 199 players with at least 50 attempts.

Perhaps the real reason Carmelo's been so efficient offensively in the Olympics is because he's scored his points within the flow of the offense. Last season, more than a third of his plays were isolation. He’s been the most efficient isolation player in the Olympics. But only 14 percent of his plays have been isolation.

Instead, more than half of Carmelo's points have come on transition and spot-up plays. Thirty percent of his points have come from catch-and-jumpers in the Olympics, whereas only 12 percent of his points were scored that way last NBA season.

If Carmelo can find easier ways to score other than isolation, the Knicks could reap the benefits of his best NBA season yet.

In the meantime, he and his USA teammates face Spain on Sunday at 10 AM ET with a 14th gold medal in sight.

Olympic semifinals big-game performers

August, 10, 2012
8/10/12
2:24
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
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International basketball can be a graceful exhibition of contrasting styles, a competition of national identities that have been crafted over decades. Spain plays a game predicated on finesse and marksmanship. Russia deploys its versatile, deceptive defense and a series of rip screens, late pick-and-roll options and back cuts to manufacture points. The two teams kicked things off in Friday's semifinals, in a game with radical momentum shifts, then were followed by the United States' win over Argentina in a game that remained tight into the third quarter.

Friday's standout performers:

United States 109, Argentina 83

lastnameJames
LeBron James, United States
A lot in his performance was familiar -- the court vision, the heady cuts, the work on the glass. Then there were other moments that were the products of raw power. We saw it in the third quarter when James used the slightest of screens from Kevin Love to explode past Carlos Delfino with a single dribble en route to the rim for a jam, or when he swooped over the entire Argentine rebounding corps a couple minutes later to collect a rare Durant miss and thunder it home. James finished with 18 points (8-for-12 from the field), seven rebounds and seven assists. His daily chasedown came against Delfino in the first quarter, denying a basket that would’ve shaved the United States’ early lead down to three points.

lastnameDurant
Kevin Durant, United States
Durant’s third quarter was a near facsimile to the one he turned in just a few days ago in Team USA’s group-play win over Argentina, when he erupted for 17 points. On Friday night, Durant drained a mere four 3-pointers in the period, but it was the same brand of unconscious, instantaneous sniper work. Everyone in North Greenwich Arena understood that the ball was going to Durant in short order, but Argentina had simply no recourse. Durant’s 19 points led all scorers.

lastnameDelfino
Carlos Delfino, Argentina
Delfino’s barrage of 3-pointers in the second quarter wasn’t the product of any trickery -- the American defense was merely slouching -- but those long-range bombs were crucial to keeping the Argentines within shouting distance and bought Manu Ginobili a breather. As always, Delfino worked the glass and, when the closeouts arrives, he found teammates who had better looks at the basket. His 15 points, five rebounds and three assists made for just another solid performance for a guy who has helped fortify an aging squad from Argentina.

lastnamePaul
Chris Paul, United States
Lost amid the pyrotechnics of the wings has been Paul’s unheralded performance over the past few weeks. Paul occasionally gets the chance to probe, but the Olympics doesn’t afford him the same opportunities to do his thing. On Friday, we saw the full breadth of CP3. Paul spotted up when his wings had possession of the ball (2-of-3 from 3-point range), but he was first and foremost a distributor. In the second quarter, Paul operated in pure point mode, first finding Love behind the defense, then James streaking down the lane to his left. A possession later, he broke down Argentina’s D, then made a blind pass to James who, this time, cut corner-to-rim. The nightcap for Paul came late in the fourth with a gaudy lob in traffic to former Hornets teammate Tyson Chandler for the alley-oop. All in all, Paul scored 10 points and dished out seven assists without a turnover.

lastnameGinobili
Manu Ginobili, Argentina
Team USA did a solid job on Ginobili with multiple defenders, including James, who denied easy passes to Ginobili, forcing him to cut way up high to receive the ball. As a result, Ginobili had to grind for his 18 points. There were far fewer Eurosteps and floaters and more long-range grenades, but Ginobili was still brilliant. He notched a huge 3-pointer in a breakneck final possession just before halftime, then began the second half with another bomb -- six points that trimmed a 10-point American lead to four and had the crowd riled up.


Spain 67, Russia 59

Jose Calderon, Spain
lastnameCalderon

After a disastrous first half, Spain needed two things after intermission -- perimeter production and a steady hand. Calderon, one of the world’s most reliable floor leaders, provided both. The composition of the Spanish national team suits Calderon because, as smart as he is with the ball, there's enough tactical help to allow how to flare out and space the floor. After being strangled by the Russians in the paint for 20 minutes, that was imperative for la Roja.

The biggest bucket of the night for Spain came at the 5:10 mark of the fourth quarter. After giving the ball up, Calderon faded to the weakside corner where he received a skip pass from Marc Gasol on the opposite post and hit a 3-pointer that gave Spain a 58-50 lead. Calderon finished with 14 points (4-for-9 from beyond the arc, 2-for-2 from the line).

Pau Gasol, Spain
lastnameGasol

The Russians' steely defense made life impossible for both Gasols in the first half by moving extra bodies and quick double-teams to the post. Gasol spotted it early and his first couple of shot attempts came from behind the 3-point line. Gasol moved around more readily in the second quarter, but it wasn't until after halftime when Gasol embraced the notion of specific benefits and responsibilities reserved for the biggest guy on the floor. When the ball went to him in the third quarter, he did two things expertly -- moved the ball to the weakside perimeter and hung around the rim for putbacks, offensive rebounds and high-low passes. Gasol scored 16 points and collected 14 rebounds, but you'll find his greatest contribution in the second-half shooting numbers of Spain's guards, the true recipients of Gasol's active second half.

Sasha Kaun, Russia
Kaun

For a good while Friday, Kaun appeared as if he would emerge the MVP of the first semifinal contest, as Russia's finest offensive moments came when Kaun was put into motion. David Blatt's team set the pace early by launching Kaun into some nifty pick-and-roll sets initiated by everyone from guard Alexey Shved to multitasker Viktor Khryapa. Kaun doesn't have the size or muscle to hurt defenders one-on-one in the post, but when the Russians delivered him the ball on the move high, he exploded to the rim without a lot of resistance. He was Russia's most efficient scorer, with 14 points on 10 shots from the field.

Sergei Monia, Russia
Monia

The 6-foot-7 swingman had a cup of coffee with Portland and Sacramento several years ago, but has been in Moscow for the past six years. He had atrocious games shooting the ball entering the semifinal, but with Monia on the floor in the second quarter, the Russians found a formula that worked -- a middle pick-and-roll with the floor lifted and Monia primed to catch and shoot. Monia's three 3-pointers in the second quarter vaulted the Russians to a double-digit lead and had the Spaniards scrambling to rotate. The closeouts came more quickly after halftime, and the Russians were never able to recapture the spacing that guided them in the first half.

The book on ... Mike Krzyzewski

August, 10, 2012
8/10/12
11:35
AM ET
Mason By Beckley Mason
ESPN.com
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Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Mike Krzyzewski: nationalist leader

Name: Mike Krzyzewski

Birthdate: February 13, 1947

Is he an emotional leader or a tactician?
Like many great college coaches, Krzyzewski deploys his emotional guidance and ability to recruit as the foundation of his success. The cult of Coach K is on display every time Duke takes the floor at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Though Duke teams are very sharp tactically, they aren’t remarkably innovative. In fact, most Duke squads are fairly straightforward. Krzyzewski coaches the fundamentals exceptionally well, but his belief in structure and discipline inhibits his use of more elaborate tactics, like exotic zone defenses, that you’ll find elsewhere in college basketball.

However, Coach K was also one of the first coaches to emphasize the importance of 3-point shooting, and the motion-based, ball-screen-heavy spread offense that the Blue Devils now run has roots in Mike D’Antoni’s famous system.

Is he intense or a "go along, get along" type?
Oh boy, is he intense. A couple boneheaded plays and his forehead scrunches up to yank his eyebrows into angry arches, his mouth pulls into a sneer, and his eyes look ready to ignite. He learned from Bob Knight, after all.

But you don’t see that too much on the Team USA sideline. Coach K knows how to communicate with his audience. His seriousness and sturdy relationships with guys like Kobe Bryant command respect from the pros.

Does he rely on systems, or does he coach ad hoc to his personnel?
Defensively, you know what you are going to get with Duke, and to an extent, Team USA: pressure half-court defense. Both teams want to push the point guard as far from the basket as possible, deny easy entry passes to the wing and have their big men rotate hard from the opposite side of the court for blocked shots and charges. It’s not cutting-edge, but when Coach K has guards who can pressure the ball, it can be brutally suffocating.

Duke’s offense is typically more tailored to the personnel, and he likes to install quick-hitters throughout the season that highlight his best players’ strengths. That’s probably true for Team USA, as well, which has run some great stuff out of dead-ball situations. Generally speaking, there’s a loose set of guidelines on offense to put the U.S. superstars in the right place, but the real instructive work seems to have come on the defensive end.

Does he share decision-making with star players, or is he The Decider?
At Duke, he’s a dictator and can be restrictive with atypical talents like Josh McRoberts. With Team USA, he relies on guys like Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James to drive the energy at practice and on the court.

Does he prefer the explosive scorer or the lockdown defender?
Though Duke teams often feature a freewheeling, explosive offense, Coach K is definitely a defense-first guy. That’s been his focus with Team USA, though his Olympic charges have not shown the same level of discipline he would expect from a Duke team. A Team USA player who gets burned while gambling for a steal won't get benched with a stern rebuke.

Does he prefer a set rotation, or is he more likely to use his personnel situationally?
He prefers a set rotation, though that can mean reusing combinations of three or four players rather than full five-man units.

Will he trust young players in big spots, or is he more inclined to use his grizzled veterans?
A big part of the philosophy at Duke seems to be finding solid players who will stick around and develop over four years rather than a John Calipari model of stocking the sidelines with an annual platoon of one-and-done players. Duke players have to get with the program, and that means structure and discipline that usually takes some time to pick up. However, exceptions are made in the case of truly great talents like Kyrie Irving, who inspired Coach K to give him tons of minutes and freedom as a freshman.

Team USA is a trickier situation because the talent hierarchy is less obvious. But generally speaking, Krzyzewski prefers to play the players he knows best -- but he knows when to play his best players.

What were his characteristics as a player?
A coach’s dream, of course, Krzyzewski was a heady guard and an extension of his coach on the floor. Bob Knight has recounted a story of when he told Krzyzewski he needed to score 12 points for his team to win, and Krzyzewski, more of a passer, netted exactly 12.

Which coaches did he play for?
Bob Knight at United States Military Academy (West Point).

What is his coaching pedigree?
Coached under Bob Knight for one season, 1974-75, at Indiana, before taking over at West Point. After leading the Cadets for five seasons, Krzyzewski became the head coach at Duke in 1980.

He first got involved with USA’s international team in 1979 as an assistant at the Pan America Games. He was also an assistant on the 1984 and 1992 U.S. Olympics teams before becoming Team USA’s head coach in 2005.

If basketball didn't exist, what might he be doing?
In another life, Coach K would be Colonel Krzyzewski -- professor and head of the Behavioral Sciences and Leadership Department at West Point.

American men need 3s to fall in London

August, 9, 2012
8/09/12
5:07
PM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
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Christian Petersen/Getty Images

LeBron James' triple-double helped lead the United States to victory over Australia, but if the U.S. is to move on to the gold-medal game, it will need the 3-pointers to fall against Argentina.
After a scare against Lithuania, the United States men’s basketball team has cruised to victories over Argentina and Australia, and continues a quest for its 14th gold medal in the 17 Olympics in which the United States has played men’s basketball.

The U.S. improved to 14-0 against Australia in FIBA tournaments, but the competition will take a step up in the semifinals against Argentina, the third-ranked team in the FIBA rankings.

Argentina has two of the three leading scorers in the tournament, with Luis Scola averaging 19.7 points a game, and Manu Ginobili 19.3, a combined 39 a contest. But in the group play game between these teams, the United States held those two to 27 points.

In that contest, the U.S. led by only one point at halftime, but pulled away by outscoring Argentina 42-17 in the third quarter. The key, as it has been throughout the tournament for the Americans, was 3-point shooting.

The U.S. went 19-46 on 3-point shooting in that game, and through its first six games, has made 96 3-pointers, 44 more than any other team. The Americans are shooting nearly 45 percent from 3-point range in the tournament, also best of any team.

When the 3s aren’t falling, the Americans have struggled. In the close call against Lithuania, the U.S. went just 10-33 on 3-pointers. It’s also led to some tight scores early in games. The U.S. went 8-25 against France in its opener, and only led by one at the end of the first quarter. Against Tunisia, the Americans were 10-25 on 3-point shooting, and led by six at the end of the first quarter.

But 3-point shooting hasn’t been the Americans’ only strength. The U.S. has had 114 second-chance points, no other team has more than 75. Team USA also has 159 fast-break points, with no other team having more than 98. However, potential finals opponent Russia has allowed 43 fast-break points, fewest in the tournament.

The Americans are also performing defensively, leading all teams with 71 steals, fueling their fast-break offense. However, Argentina has allowed just 26 steals, the third-lowest mark of the tournament.

An area of concern could be offensive rebounding. In the near-loss to Lithuania, the Americans were outrebounded 36-24 on the offensive glass.

LeBron James has already made his mark on these Olympics, with a triple-double against Australia, the first by an American man in the Olympics. With the potential for two more games, James could keep writing his name in the record book. He enters the semifinal game against Argentina with 236 career points in Olympic play, third-most all-time by a USA player, trailing only David Robinson and Michael Jordan.

With a gold medal, James could also become the third player to win an NBA Championship and a gold medal in the same year, joining Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

First Cup: Thursday

August, 9, 2012
8/09/12
5:09
AM ET
  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: Tony Parker shook hands with the Spaniards, then made one, final Olympic gesture. He smashed his goggles onto the floor. A few hours later, near the same spot where pieces of plastic had skidded, Manu Ginobili made a gesture, too. He and his Argentine teammates sang with the crowd, pointing to those in the stands, hugging, almost dancing. “Doing our thing,” Ginobili said afterward, smiling. The two were a contrast, but their emotions were also a contrast to what they do in San Antonio. Parker never smashes anything as a Spur when he loses, and Ginobili never sings when he wins, yet they were here, all while playing for free. And David Stern, who witnessed all of it in the London arena Wednesday, wants to take this away? We think we know about rivalries in the United States, but Spurs-Mavs is preseason stuff compared to Wednesday’s quarterfinals.
  • Gary D’Amato of the Journal Sentinel: Dwyane Wade said he expected to be ready for the start of training camp. The Heat signed guard Ray Allen as insurance, giving Wade all the time he needs to get back to 100%. ... Wade said he watched Team USA's pool games and liked what he saw other than the team's slow starts in a couple games. ... Wade met with the team Tuesday night and said, "It was like old times. We all are brothers in the sense of we play the game of basketball together. Even though we compete (against each other in the NBA), we all play for one country, the USA. We share that in common." He'll be in the stands for the semifinal and final. But he also wants to soak in the entire Olympic experience and was looking forward to attending the women's gold-medal soccer match between the U.S. and Japan on Thursday.
  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Even Kobe Bryant's teammates kept waiting for that look, that competitive countenance that fuels one of his scoring barrages. When it finally came, during the second half of the U.S. men's basketball team's 119-86 quarterfinal victory over Australia, nobody seemed surprised. But some tried to take credit. "I was on him the whole game: 'Wake up!' He looked a little sleepy out there," Carmelo Anthony said. "I guess I woke the Mamba up, and he got it going in that third quarter." Bryant, who entered averaging a meager 9.4 points and failed to score in the first half, dropped a 3-point barrage on the pesky, physical Australians, sinking six en route to his team-high 20 points Wednesday. The U.S. advances to face Argentina in a Friday semifinal, three days after the teams tussled and Facundo Campazzo punched Anthony in the groin. ... "I was just kind of searching for something to get me going, searching for something to kind of activate the Black Mamba," he said. When Bryant is talking in the third person, it's usually a sign of trouble for opponents. And a player who owns five NBA championships and is seeking his second straight gold medal knows failure often is part of success. Consider yourself warned, Argentina.
  • Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune: David Blatt is a proud American who works as an elite coach in his ancestral home of Israel and coaches the Russian basketball team. He said "Shalom'' to a television camera before the playing of the Russian national anthem, and he has resuscitated the Russians' drowning national team. Wednesday he gesticulated and screamed on the sideline as the most surprising team in the Olympic basketball tournament advanced to the semifinals. With future Timberwolf Andrei Kirilenko sprinting around the court like a younger version of himself, the Russians beat Lithuania 83-74 at North Greenwich Arena. They'll play Spain on Friday, probably for the right to face the United States for the gold medal. Kirilenko had 19 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks, playing with the kind of passion Americans rarely see out of their men's Olympic team. "Andrei is the greatest player in the history of Russian basketball, bar none,'' Blatt said. "And he is here of his own volition and leading us with his heart. In Russia, he is a Michael Jordan-like figure for us. He is our best player. He is also our hardest worker and our leader. And with him it is all coming from the heart.''
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: The Washington Wizards were one of 10 NBA teams with at least two representatives in the London Olympics but neither Nene nor Kevin Seraphin will return to Washington with a medal after both players’ teams were eliminated on Wednesday in the quarterfinals at North Greenwich Arena. Nene returned to action after missing the previous game with soreness in his left foot and finished with seven points and 12 rebounds in Brazil’s 82-77 loss to Argentina. ... With Brazil no longer in the hunt for its first medal in 48 years, Nene can now rest his ailing left foot and prepare for Wizards training camp on Oct. 2. He averaged 6.6 points on 55 percent shooting and eight rebounds in his first Olympics appearance. ... Seraphin played sparingly in France’s 66-59 loss to Spain, collecting two points, three fouls and three turnovers in 6 minutes, 31 seconds. Seraphin didn’t play the final 16 minutes, leaving the floor with his team trailing by two.
  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: If the Lakers arrive at a future point where they definitely don’t plan on trading Bynum, then they could work the hard sell on how he should lock that extension up in case he suffers another knee injury. Along those lines, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak mentioned last month the “risks” vs. the “bird in hand.” But rest assured that Bynum has been looking forward to flexing his full free-agent power for quite some time. If you revisit Bynum’s specific season-ending comments on how he would “entertain” the Lakers on the topic of the extension while “I’m not reaching out,” it’s clear that he understands he can dictate to the Lakers a few things – and maybe even arrange for a handicapped-quality parking space next to the head coach’s prime spot at the Lakers’ El Segundo training facility. Bynum was clear back in May about his desire to stick with the Lakers, though, saying about a possible lack of extension: “I can assure you I’m not waiting because I want to go somewhere. That’s for sure.” This was clear, too: After emerging as an All-Star and avoiding significant knee injury in the lockout-compressed schedule, Bynum also said: “I don’t expect to hear my name out there as a possible trade.” Oops.
  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: Terry Stotts may not have been the sexiest hire, but when he was introduced Wednesday as the new Trail Blazers coach, he probably raised a few eyebrows with an intriguing vision of his new team. These Blazers, Stotts says, will favor the three-point shot. They will play at a fast pace. They will be given the freedom to create, as long as they show trust in teammates to pass. And over-dribbling will be frowned upon. Of course, all this will be attempted with a young and largely unproven roster outside of cornerstones LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews, so nobody on Wednesday was making any grand predictions about the playoffs or win totals. Instead, the Midwestern son of teachers, and the longtime NBA assistant and head coach, predicted a season of instruction, and the successes will be judged not so much by wins and losses, but by the learning and the improvement. "I think they are going to play an exciting brand of basketball," Stotts said.
  • Reid Laymance of the Houston Chronicle: Jeremy Lin recently took time to skype with a young Knicks fan who was upset about Lin’s signing with the Rockets as a free agent. The father of Naim, the 5-year-old fan, posted a video on YouTube of his son’s despondence over Lin’s departure. Lin apparently saw the video and responded with a skype chat. Lin tells Naim: “You need to still root for them (Knicks), ’cause they’re gonna be a great team with or without me, all right? So you have to keep going to their games and watching them. They’ll be really good.” Wrote Naim’s father: “Jeremy was so touched by the original video that he decided to reach out to us and offer a skype virtual meet with Naim. Naim was so shy :) he made me do all the talking. Thanks again Jeremy hopefully we’ll see you at the bb game when we welcome you back to The Garden.”
  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: The Cavaliers signed swingman C.J. Miles to a two-year contract on Wednesday. He arrived in Cleveland earlier in the day and took his physical. Attempts to reach Miles were unsuccessful. He announced the reported $4 million deal on Twitter. "Papers signed," he tweeted. "It's a done deal." He is expected to provide backup minutes at small forward or shooting guard. There's a chance he could move into the starting lineup at small forward. The deal doesn't preclude the Cavs from trying to re-sign swingman Alonzo Gee. The restricted free agent has yet to find a deal this summer. If the Cavs can't sign Gee to a multiyear deal, he could sign his $2.7 million qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: DeMarre Carroll’s fully aware Utah’s stacked in the frontcourt. Gordon Hayward, newly acquired veteran Marvin Williams and 2012 NBA All-Star slam-dunk champion Jeremy Evans are expected to compete for time at small forward, while the Jazz’s big lineup featuring Al Jefferson and Derrick Favors turns Paul Millsap into a 3. Does Carroll care about the buildup? No. Like many, he sees the depth as a team asset. And he knows that every strong NBA squad features one rotational player content to scrap, claw and dig — and occasionally drill a wide-open 3-pointer. "Top teams, they have one guy who’s an energy guy," said Carroll, who’s averaged 3 points, 2 rebounds and 11.1 minutes since entering the league as the No. 27 overall pick in the 2009 draft. "You can look at Memphis: Tony Allen. Thunder: [Thabo] Sefolosha. You can always go down the list. At one point, Chicago: Ronnie Brewer was out there, doing his thing." Carroll expects to enter camp in excellent health. A sprained left ankle that limited his play in Summer League action has healed well.
  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: As an unrestricted free agent this summer, veteran shooting guard Roger Mason attracted attention from the Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder and the Chicago Bulls. But Mason said none of those teams offered him a bigger role coming off the bench than what he expects to play for the Hornets this season. Seeking a team where he could blossom as a veteran leader, Mason signed a one-year contract with New Orleans last week. “Obviously, I felt like this presented the best opportunity for me on the court,” said Mason, an eight-year veteran who has played for the Bulls, Spurs, Raptors, Knicks and Wizards since coming out of Virginia in 2002. "Ultimately I have a level of excitement to come down with these young guys to play for Coach Monty Williams and to be with this organization.” ... The Hornets are rebuilding around shooting guard Eric Gordon and first-round draft picks Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers, but Williams said they need veterans with leadership abilities like Mason.
  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: Palace Sports & Entertainment president Dennis Mannion said Detroit Pistons jerseys “most probably” will have small sponsorship patches in the future. The NBA signaled last month that -- pending formal league approval -- it will allow small patches on the upper left part of jerseys. It’s not exactly going the NASCAR route, but it’s a significant move as the league ponders another revenue stream. Mannion said Tuesday there have been discussions about offering the space as part of a package with a high-end sponsor. “The ilk of sponsor that you could attract is typically very big consumer marketers, and they help you with your brand,” Mannion said. “So I think we are doing an OK job here in the Detroit metro area with the Pistons brand, (but) there are sponsors out there that can take you to a whole new level and other markets, and that’s exciting.”
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: The Wizards are close to filling out Randy Wittman’s coaching staff with the addition of Jerry Sichting, league sources with knowledge of the situation have confirmed. An official announcement is expected to come soon. Sichting worked previously with Wittman in Minnesota, where both were members of Flip Saunders’s staff with the Timberwolves. When Wittman replaced Dwane Casey and took over as Minnesota’s head coach in January 2007, Sichting had already moved on after being with the organization from 1994 to 2005. Sichting returned to serve as an assistant under Kevin McHale after McHale replaced Wittman in December 2008.
  • Nate Taylor of The New York Times: Madison Square Garden opened its doors to the news media Wednesday for a tour of the second part of a three-part renovation of the arena. The event was led by Hank Ratner, president and chief executive of Madison Square Garden Company. The main selling point Ratner gave for this round was centered on fans who will sit in the upper bowl when the Garden hosts its first game on Nov. 1, when the Rangers play the Dallas Stars. “I think the first impression for fans is they’re going to see a brand new upper bowl,” Ratner said. “You’ll see the new seating and that every seat is closer to the action. Fans will see that their experience will be upgraded in every level.” Among the many upgrades to the Garden, the easiest one to recognize is how the seating in the upper bowl has changed. Fans will now sit 10 feet closer to the court or ice, and the seats have been elevated by 17 degrees.
  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: The bounce of basketballs may be upstaged by a morality play this season. Forget the Dwight Howard referendum for a moment. The more pertinent question in some people's minds is this: Are you in favor of traditional marriage or do you support gay rights? The DeVos family, which owns the Magic, are staunch traditionalists. The Douglas and Maria DeVos Foundation donated $500,000 to the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) in 2009. NOM is on the front lines of the anti-gay marriage movement, leading initiatives on same-sex marriage bans in eight states. It became a public issue this week when Fred Karger, president of the LGBT advocacy group, Rights Equal Rights foundation, cited the DeVos Foundation contribution in calling for a boycott of Amway and its affiliates, which includes your Orlando Magic. The team is owned by Rich DeVos, who is an Amway co-founder. ... Advocacy shouldn't be focused on food, beverage or basketball choices. Your moral compass should be set on greater things with more impact. Regardless, the call for a boycott of Magic games is very much in play this season. And you, the paying customer, just like the DeVos family, can make whatever choices you see fit to use your disposable income. Let the morality games begin.

Wednesday Bullets

August, 8, 2012
8/08/12
3:10
PM ET
Mason By Beckley Mason
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Chris Palmer breaks down why Carmelo Anthony (and not Kobe Bryant) has been so good in the Olympics (Insider): "Saying Kobe Bryant is a brilliant scorer isn't news. But in the fast-paced FIBA game, he takes eons to get his shot off. Many of Bryant's shots come on isolations in which the floor is lopsided with four players standing on the opposite side. If Bryant's initial move doesn't work, the U.S. is looking at a wasted possession. The approach works for the Lakers' offense, but not on Team USA with its awesome firepower and emphasis on teamwork. Anthony, on the other hand, has been far more direct and decisive with the ball than Bryant. With a clearly defined scorer's role, Anthony has done an excellent job of picking his spots and letting others create for him. He's getting clean looks off kickouts and ball reversals and racking up huge numbers by simply hitting open shots without so much as a dribble."
  • The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding sympathizes with Andrew Bynum, who has good reason to question the Lakers' commitment to him: "Put yourself in his size 18s, and remember trudging out there with the new knee brace in winning the Lakers’ 2009 championship against Howard and fighting through a surgery-requiring knee injury in winning the Lakers’ 2010 championship over Boston. Imagine reveling in your breakthrough season and then feeling unwanted despite your 30 rebounds in San Antonio in the Lakers’ best regular-season victory and unappreciated despite your 10-block triple-double against Denver in the Lakers’ best playoff victory. It’s not hard to feel the frown begin and the head start to shake."
  • One Clipper fan is feeling the love from childhood hero Ron Harper.
  • He hasn't received a ton of recognition, but Chris Paul has been vital on both sides of the ball for Team USA. Though he's mostly posted understated stat lines, his two-way play has been excellent. The Americans' half-court offense has looked sharpest when Paul is pulling the strings in high pick-and-rolls, and his ball pressure has disrupted opposing offenses and allowed his rangy teammates to get in the passing lanes. Paul is a control freak, so it's probably not easy for him to relinquish his role as the primary creator, but it speaks to his basketball smarts that he knows when to float to the wing and hit a 3, and when to take control of the offense.
  • France's Nicolas Batum winds up and blasts Juan Carlos Navarro in the groin with a closed fist. After the game, Batum told Adrian Wojnarowski, "I wanted to give him a good reason to flop." That's not exactly what HoopIdea had in mind when we asked for recommendations on how to prevent flopping.
  • Who will root for the Brooklyn Nets? Professor and author Michael Shapiro, for one: "'The greatest gift for the Brooklyn Nets is the fact that James Dolan owns the Knicks,' Shapiro said. 'I don’t live in Brooklyn anymore. I live in Manhattan. But I really want to root for the Nets. After (Dolan) let Lin go, I called my son and he said to me, ‘Fine. Brooklyn. I get it dad.'"
  • The Pistons acknowledge likelihood that their jerseys will soon carry ads.
  • On CelticsBlog, Jeff Green talks with Josh Zavadil about his long recovery from heart surgery: "'The surgery itself was probably the hardest thing I've ever been through in my life. I had to start from, basically, double scratch. Walking was an issue -- just being able to have the stamina was a problem. Everything just kind of shuts down. The nervous system breaks down, and it's kinda like a jump-start. You have to get it going, and it was just difficult. You take for granted all of the little things -- whether it's just an easy crunch or ab exercise, or moving to the left or moving to the right. I couldn't lay on my stomach for the first two-and-a-half months. I couldn't lay on my side. The first couple of weeks I couldn't drive. I couldn't do a lot of things, but it helps you appreciate the little things.'"
  • An ambivalent reaction to Trail Blazers' decision to hire Dallas assistant Terry Stotts as head coach.
  • Luol Deng says he doesn't expect to have surgery on the injured ligaments in his left, in part because he felt so good during the Olympics.
  • As a kid in Seat Pleasant, Maryland, Kevin Durant would sprint up this hill as part of his self-motivated training regiment.

First Cup: Wednesday

August, 8, 2012
8/08/12
5:11
AM ET
  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: Lee Eddins had hoped he would be able to watch his idol, center Roy Hibbert, play in person when the Indiana Pacers visit Sacramento, Calif., for a game against the Kings in late November. But Lee, 12, is not expected to live that long. Diagnosed with stage four leukemia six months ago, Lee has been told he might only have a couple of weeks left to live. So Hibbert has planned a special surprise. Later this week, he is flying to Sacramento to meet Lee. ... Lee has spent his entire young life in California. Hibbert grew up in the Washington D.C. area before joining the Pacers out of Georgetown in 2008. So where did Lee's admiration for Hibbert come from? "Lee's followed Roy since he was back at Georgetown," Eddins legal guardian Victor Baker said. "Lee likes players from all over the NBA, but there's something about Roy that he liked. I didn't even know he had heard of Roy Hibbert before." Now Lee will get to meet the 7-footer, and for at least several hours, perhaps focus on something other than the ordeal he's been enduring the past few months.
  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: Part of the reason [Dennis] Lindsey removed himself from search processes for past GM jobs was because he didn’t want to settle or sell himself short. Now, Lindsey has everything from a devoted fanbase that regularly packs EnergySolutions Arena to the Miller family’s vow it’ll spend what’s necessary to keep the Jazz competitive in the ever-changing NBA. Lindsey plans to embrace new-world statistics and analytical research, while building on the foundation laid by key longtime Jazz personnel such as Dave Fredman, Walt Perrin, Richard Smith and Scott Layden. O’Connor had long eyed Lindsey and talks between the sides began three weeks ago. He was sold on the ex-Spur after placing a call to San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. O’Connor asked the man who bounced Utah from the 2012 playoffs who would run a new NBA organization if Spurs GM R.C. Buford suddenly purchased one. Pop didn’t hesitate, pointing directly at Lindsey.
  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: For months, Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews has lobbied for Kaleb Canales to become the team’s permanent head coach. But that possibility vanished Tuesday, when general manager Neil Olshey hired Dallas Mavericks assistant Terry Stotts instead. “Initially, I was a little shocked,” Matthews said. “I thought Kaleb was definitely going to get that job. But after talking to Neil and hearing his reasons, I’m excited. Coach Stotts brings championship experience and I think that’s huge. That’s somewhere we see ourselves in the near-near future.” Matthews’ sentiment was almost identical to that of his teammates. As news spread from player to player that Olshey had finally ended his extensive coaching search and settled on Stotts, surprise transformed to acceptance before transforming to excitement. Canales will remain on the Blazers’ staff as one of Stotts’ assistants, helping to buffer the transition, and the Blazers’ rebuilding project has a well respected and experienced bench leader. Stotts, 54, brings 18 seasons of coaching experience with him to Portland, including four as an NBA head coach with the Atlanta Hawks (2002-04) and Milwaukee Bucks (2005-07). But it’s his most recent stop, with Dallas, that is generating the biggest buzz among Blazers players. Stotts was a key member of coach Rick Carlisle’s staff during the Mavericks’ run to the 2011 NBA Championship, which featured a first-round Western Conference playoff victory over the Blazers.
  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: In a move the Bulls will announce soon, first-round pick Marquis Teague has signed his rookie contract and will travel from his hometown of Indianapolis to Chicago to begin workouts. "It feels good to finally get it out of the way," Teague said in a phone interview. "I just want to get in the gym and start working out." Teague was the last first-round pick to sign his deal, typically a formality formalities because of slotted contracts depending on draft selection. However, it's standard practice in the NBA for first-round picks to receive 120 percent of the slotted amount. When the Bulls signed Kirk Hinrich to a portion of the midlevel exception and Marco Belinelli to the biannual exception, they put themselves in a hard-cap situation of $74.307 million. Thus, negotiations with Teague, the 29th overall pick, focused on a first-year salary of less than 120 percent, sources said. Teague ultimately signed a deal for 100 percent of his slotted salary in the first year, or $857,000, sources said. The following three years are at the 120 percent slotted salary.
  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: Everyone seems to understand this. Even as Yahoo! Sports endorsed Doc Rivers last week to replace Mike Krzyzewski as the coach of USA Basketball, the website acknowledged Popovich should be the first choice. So why not Popovich? His only sin is guilt by association. Popovich was an assistant for two dysfunctional U.S. teams, in 2002 and 2004. Former Suns owner Jerry Colangelo, the one who revamped USA Basketball, likely understood an assistant can only do so much. But he never considered Popovich, and there are two explanations: One, Colangelo wanted to start fresh. Or, two, Colangelo couldn’t bring himself to reward a coach who kept beating his old Phoenix franchise in the playoffs. When asked why he opted for Krzyzewski over Popovich, Colangelo came up with another explanation. He told a reporter this: “I think (Popovich) had a bad taste in his mouth regarding his most recent experiences with USA Basketball, some bitterness, and that came out in my conversation with him. He seemed burned out by it. … He just wasn’t as enthusiastic as Mike.” Popovich let it go until the theme began to be repeated. That’s when he famously sent a letter to Colangelo, copying it to NBA officials and others, telling him to cease spreading the perception that he was ever ambivalent about coaching his country’s national team. Popovich wouldn’t talk publicly about that then, and he won’t now. There’s no reason to, either. Nothing he says will change what has happened.
  • John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News: So it's no surprise that things got a little chippy during the United States' 126-97 preliminary round victory on Monday. Still USA forward Carmelo Anthony thinks Argentina forward Facundo Campazzo sank to a new low by hitting him in the groin as he was shooting a three-pointer. "It was definitely a cheap shot," Anthony said. "Something like that, I don't play like that. "If you're going to foul somebody, foul them hard but you don't take a shot like that. Nobody takes a cheap shot like that." We tend to agree with Anthony. For his part, Campazzo said he apologized to USA swingman Kobe Bryant after the game, but he didn't apologize to Anthony because USA guard Chris Paul didn't apologize to him for punching him earlier in the game. OK, but that still doesn't explain why he hit Anthony instead of Paul and why he thought it was OK to apologize to Bryant and not Anthony.
  • Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune: Even if the U.S. men's basketball team cruises to another gold medal, the chronology of the Olympics demands a new dynamic every four years, however predictable the result. In Beijing, the most talented All-Star basketball team in the world deferred to Kobe Bryant in big moments. In London, two new players are emerging as the team's clutch scorers. One is Kevin Durant, the world's most gifted offensive player. One is the ring-wearing version of LeBron James, the world's best basketball player. When Lithuania took a fourth-quarter lead against the U.S. on Saturday, James blew the game open with a three-pointer, a dunk and a spinning shot in the lane. When Argentina hung close at halftime on Monday, U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski asked James to "take over the game" in the third quarter, and he did. In fact, James can take over in many ways. Monday, Krzyzewski played him in the post. James has completed 50-foot spinning bounce passes, shot the three-pointer and been a raging bull on the fast break. He may be the U.S. team's best passer, defender, floor-runner and finisher.
  • Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer: Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony may score more. Chris Paul may get more assists. But King James is the undisputed leader of this squad, which continues play with a quarterfinal game vs. Australia on Wednesday (5:15 p.m. Eastern). James is the team’s soundtrack in practices, and on defense, his deep voice alternately breaking up his teammates in laughter and calling out commands. On offense, he is often content to pass the ball to get his teammates going. But for the past two games, against Lithuania and Argentina, you could see him decide when it was time to take over. ... But even on this team of stars, James is the sun. The other players orbit around him. Durant and Paul, while all-stars in their own right, defer to him. Carmelo counts on James to get him the ball. Kobe, while also inherently an alpha male, also recognizes that this time around it is LeBron’s team. And I just don’t see LeBron letting the U.S. lose.
  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: We've heard some silly public backlash on the American men, especially after the Nigeria mega-blowout, questions about why we keep sending the pros over to the Olympics. How come nobody asks about the U.S. women, who have now won four straight Olympic gold medals and 39 consecutive games in the Olympics? The truth is, while international men have made strides toward competing against the U.S. men -- witness the other Dream Team's close call against Lithuania -- the international women's game has lost some ground to the Americans. "I think there's been growth on other teams, but I don't know that it's enough right now,"Auriemma said. "It's like our U.S. men's soccer team; there's been great progress the last 25 years, but -- the big 'but.' The teams have gotten better but they just don't have 12 players who are compatible with us in terms of talent. Their first five and our first five, that could be a great game for 40 minutes. But our next seven against their next seven, that's where the big gap is.''
  • Dan Bickley of The Arizona Republic: Question is, can [Kobe] Bryant live without the ball in his hands? Or will they co-op, with [Steve] Nash occasionally serving as the spot-up shooter while Bryant creates? Either way, the LA story is going to be among the bigger ones in the NBA: Can Nash propel Bryant back to the top, over both James and Durant? "I think Steve is going to have a big impact," said former Suns forward Boris Diaw, also playing for France. "Whatever he is doing, wherever he is going, he is always getting his teammates better. He's going to have already very good teammates (in Los Angeles), so it's tough to make them better. But he'll find a way." That's what Nash does, and for his new city it will mark the return of Lakermania. And for Bryant, the timing couldn't be more urgent.
  • Dale Kasler of The Sacramento Bee: Power Balance Pavilion could get renamed yet again – and Sleep Train is one of the candidates. Sleep Train Mattress Centers said Tuesday it's negotiating with the Sacramento Kings for naming rights to the team's arena. The Rocklin-based retailer is one of several companies talking to the Kings about naming rights. Kings co-owner Joe Maloof confirmed the team is in negotiations for a replacement for Power Balance. He said the Kings' marketing staff is handling the talks and he had no information about which companies are in the running. The team declined to comment further. The Kings began looking for a new naming-rights partner after their year-old deal with Power Balance was cut short abruptly. The sports-wristband company left the team high and dry after filing for bankruptcy protection last fall. Power Balance paid the Kings just $700,000 before cutting off payments, according to court records.

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