ESPN's Chris Sheridan has been chatting Team USA from Shanghai, and I submitted my own question (based on a recent post) which he answered. I'm not sure if he knew it was me or not. But I'm proud to have made the cut. Here's the exchange: "Henry (Flemington NJ): Hey Chris, is there any way to assess how much Team USA players know about their opponents? Are they thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of this or that player from Greece, Spain, Argentina, etc. -- or are they more just trying to play as well as they can? Chris Sheridan: They're more comfortable playing against players they know. No question. But the scouting staff is filling them in on all individual and team tendencies, and the players are paying attention. One member of the support staff intentionally sent one of the Team USA bigs a scouting tape of an opponents' guards, just to see if the player was watching the CDs. The next day, the player asked why he got the wrong tape."
Ryan Schwan of Hornets247 has been watching some international hoops, and has some deft observations: "When you watch the other teams, who are experienced with international ball, they initiate their offensive sets about six to eight feet back from the three point line. Their wing shooters hover a good three to four feet back from the line. The US, however, like good NBA players, initiate their offense at -- or a few feet behind -- the three point line. Their wings toe it. This is especially the case with slash-minded players like Anthony, Wade, James, and Bryant. In the NBA, this is fine -- the wider arc of the 3-point line adds another 6 feet to the space within it, giving penetrators more room to operate, and generating greater spacing. But the international arc is so much shorter, when a player penetrates, the help defense has three or four fewer feet to cover to collapse on them. Watching the games -- at times it does seem amazing how quickly the defenses will jam penetration and attack post players. When Redd is on the floor - he actually sits where the normal three-point line is -- and that does help the spacing and our half court offense. Deron Willams and Paul are also adept at making their moves well outside the three-point line -- probably because as point guards, they are a little more used to making moves further out, using as much floor as they can to create space on their defender. Hopefully, they'll figure that out. It would help [Dwight] Howard greatly. ... [On defense] this team ballhawks too damn much. All of 'em. A team can support one ballhawk. Maybe two. But when all of the guys are chasing the ball, there are too many open shots. I still don't think we're going to lose, but some disciplined team is going to make us pay and keep it close. ... That team will be Spain."
Seven reasons Josh Smith, yes, he's still an unsigned restricted free agent, will not likely be a Warrior anytime soon.
NetsDaily has word that Bruce Ratner is still spending money on real estate development, which could be good news if you're hoping for that new arena in Brooklyn: "The last [court] case that could [delay the arena] moves back into state court next month when critics will appeal a lower court ruling dismissing their challenges to the project's Environmental Impact Statement. Critics, who have yet to win in court, filed another lawsuit aimed at stopping the arena on Friday, but with fewer plaintiffs. Some of the original plaintiffs have settled with Ratner and sold their properties to him. Meanwhile, in spite of the continuing credit crisis, Ratner is moving ahead on two major residential complexes, one in Lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn, an indication he still has ready sources of financing. Both projects are now under construction. The Manhattan site, at 60 Beekman Place, will rise 76 stories while the Brooklyn site at 80 DeKalb, will rise 36 stories. Frank Gehry, the architect for the Barclays Center, is also the architect on the Lower Manhattan project."
Dan Reed, D-League president, blogs about some of the reasons more teams (Lakers, Spurs, ex-Sonics) are buying their own D-League teams. One thing I hadn't thought much about was the coaching farm team: "Up and coming young coaches with NBA potential are an incredibly scarce commodity, and NBA GMs love the idea of offering the expanded responsibility associated with being a D-League head coach to an up-and-coming assistant who might otherwise jump at another opportunity, or even cultivate their next assistant/head coach from the outside. San Antonio and LA are both very high on the head coaches of the Toros and D-Fenders (Quin Snyder and Dan Panaggio, respectively) and feel they have a bright future in their respective organizations. Our track record as a proving ground for NBA coaches is unquestioned - we had 18 former D-League coaches in the NBA last season, we've had three former NBA D-League coaches "called up" to the NBA over the past three months (Joe Wolf to the Bucks, Harold Ellis to the Pistons, and - yesterday - Roy Rogers from the Austin Toros to the New Jersey Nets), and we're chock full of up-and-coming coaches like Panaggio and Snyder, Bryan Gates in Idaho, Nate Tibbetts in Sioux Falls, Scott Roth in Bakersfield, and many others. Perhaps the greatest compliment we could receive was when Sam Vincent, coming off his tenure as the head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats, decided to rejoin the NBA D-League as a head coach with the Anaheim Arsenal, rather than doing the typical assistant coach/TV announcer thing."
Dave of BlazersEdge on Greg Oden: "Oden should be able to do several things right away. For one he will eat space in the lane as much as any center in the league. Even if he's not strictly the biggest his quickness will make up for that. He can cover a ton of territory. He's also intimidating with that shot-blocking ability. If he gets off to any start at all teams will fear the Blazers' key by January. Second he should help clear up at least part of our rebounding problem. Third, provided he's worked on a low post move during the past year, he should give us our best post option since Mike Dunleavy was forcing Rasheed to play down there. However I do not expect Oden to be playing complete starter's minutes coming off of the knee surgery ... at least not right away. Nor do I expect him to be at full speed running or cutting, nor displaying the phenomenal leaping ability. I saw Amare Stoudemire in Summer League when he was coming back from his knee surgery and he looked bad ... as in 'I wonder if this guy will ever be effective again' bad. Obviously he is effective again, as will Oden be. But it may take some time. Most of a season would not surprise me. This year is going to be a trial run for Greg. I anticipate at the end of the season he will say he is somewhat disappointed in his rookie campaign even as the rest of us are saying it wasn't too bad for a guy just entering the league off of microfracture. I assume we'll see flashes of brilliance, but sustained production may have to wait. In other words, 75-80% of Greg Oden is still going to transform this team, but I don't see
him getting close to Rookie of the Year status or anything like that."
Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune on Team USA: "Through three exhibitions, [Deron] Williams has been the U.S.'s top point guard, even if he hasn't always played the position. Williams was on the attack the whole game, epitomized by one play in the fourth quarter. He took out the ball and tried to rush it in as quickly as possible. Williams practically snatched it back from Dwyane Wade, drove the lane and hit Anthony for a layup. After fighting one of Russia's big men for position on defense, Williams led the U.S. on the fast break and hit Michael Redd for a three-pointer to make it 70-52. Instead of trying for some alley-oop dunk, Williams made the great read in looking back to Redd. Williams also made a nice strip of J.R. Holden (following Bryant's lead of hounding Russia's top ball-handler) in the first quarter, leading to a Chris Paul layup, and knocked down a three-pointer to end the quarter against Russia's zone. ... The more I watch the U.S., the more I think their best five might be Williams, Bryant, Wade, Anthony and James. They're missing a true big man, obviously, but as far as explosiveness, that lineup would be it." (On that note, Eric Musselman writes about LeBron James' time at center.)
Kurt from Forum Blue and Gold: "Studies have shown that guys who played in the Olympics/World Championships are not any more likely to be injured the following season (although the sample size is pretty small). I think it will be interesting to see this year - if I were a Cleveland fan I wouldn't be that worried about LeBron, but Kidd in Dallas is another matter. Will he be a little more worn down and not bounce back as fast? That matters as dependant as Dallas will be on Kidd to contend."
As I pretend to understand the economics of sports from time to time, I should probably read this book.
Luis Fernandez of DraftExpress scouts the Spanish team: "The current World Champion comes with its best roster ever, looking on paper even stronger than the squad that conquered the world title. Extremely deep, balanced and experienced, there are still some concerns about some players' shape. Pau Gasol, Jorge Garbajosa, Juan Carlos Navarro or Raul Lopez are yet to get rid of some small injuries that have hampered them from getting into full game rhythm. Still, there are some young guns ready to fill their shoes if necessary. We will probably see the same high-paced Spain that relies on a very strong defense, which includes a variety of defensive settings -- such as very aggressive zones -- and which allows the team to better run the floor, the natural environment for this squad. The danger will come against defensively-strong teams who are able to control the pace of the game in order to slow it down. Then, Spain will have to show the appropriate set-offense execution and mental strength to stay effective in close scores. Fortunately, the team can count on some excellent shooters -- Rudy Fernández, Jose Calderon, Juan Carlos Navarro -- and low-post threats, the Gasol brothers -- to blow up the opponents' set defenses. One of the main attractions on the Spanish side will be Ricky Rubio, the clear-cut most interesting player in the Olympics draft-wise. He's actually claiming some meaningful minutes with his excellent showings during preparation games, and will likely receive them. Coach Reneses will likely take advantage of him whenever he wants to change the rhythm of the game with more aggressive defenses, perhaps even a full-court press, where Ricky is a master at terrorizing opposing ball-handlers. Besides, he's shooting the ball surprisingly well with the National Team for the moment. If he keeps it up -- it won't be easy -- we could regularly witness some outstanding performances."