FIBA Americas Qualifier: Day 2

By Alfredo R. Berrios


SAN JUAN -- Embarrassed. That's how Mexico's coach felt after a 95-40 loss against Canada on Thursday, Day 2 of the Qualifying Round of the FIBA Americas Championship.

The final score is the lowest scoring outcome of any team in a FIBA Americas Championship -- the second lowest was Panama and Cuba, respectively, with 52 total points in the 1992 and 1999 tournaments.

"What can I say?” Guerrero said. "It's an embarrassment. Tonight was the most embarrassing [moment of my career].”

Guerrero, a former member of the Mexican national team in the 1970s, admitted that there was some bickering among the players going back to Wednesday night's game against Puerto Rico, pointing out guard Romel Beck's selfish play. Mexico lost to Puerto Rico, 81-66, on Day 1 of the initial round.

"Logically, there's some unrest within the team,” Guerrero said. "Beck started taking shots against five defensive players. That clearly bothered our guys.”

Beck shot 1 for 9 from the field before Guerrero benched him after only 19 minutes on the floor.

Mexico shot only 22 percent from the field, missing 47 of 60 shots. Mexico also allowed Canada to score 14 points via turnovers and 11 on second-chance points.

Guerrero expects a different reaction from his club when Mexico faces the U.S. Virgin Islands on Saturday, a make-or-break game.

A significant change in the team's attitude is required.

"My team hasn't shown the expected winning attitude and courage. I'm expecting a change of attitude in these next two games,” Guerrero said. "Lack of rest doesn't have anything to do with it. You have to prepare yourself for these competitions.”

Guerrero didn't shy away from saying that today's players have changed the way they approached the game. Said Guerrero: "A lot of young players are seeing this as a business opportunity; the discipline and passion for the game are gone."

Canada's coach Leo Rautins was far more diplomatic in his postgame statements.

"I wouldn't label this as an exceptional performance,” Rautins said. "I think Mexico was very tired and we just made some good shots and took advantage.”

The Canadians shot 46 percent from the field while grabbing 51 rebounds and adding 30 assists.

Canada finished with 19 3-pointers and allowed Mexico to shoot 22 percent from the field (13-60), a tournament record.

Andy Rautins led Canada with 18 points while Carl English followed with 17. Jermaine Bucknor and Joel Anthony had 11 each.

The Dominican Republic rebounded from their loss to Brazil on Wednesday by beating Panama 100-87. Sacramento's Francisco Garcia led the charge with 24 points while Charlie Villanueva of the Detroit Pistons notched his first double-double of the tournament:15 points and 10 rebounds. The Dominicans had five players scored double digits.

Also on Thursday, Puerto Rico beat the U.S. Virgin Islands, 85-74. Carlos Arroyo scored 24 points and had five assists for the host team. Kevin Sheppard had 18 points and five assists for the losing side.

Simply put, Anderson Varejao wants a championship. And the arrival of Shaquille O'Neal to the Cleveland Cavaliers will not affect the way the young Brazilian power forward sees his role next season with the team.

"I think it's very important for us,” Varejao said about the signing of O'Neal. "Every team he's been on has won championships or has been in a good position to do so.”

Varejao, whose squad beat Venezuela 87-67 on Thursday, knows that his playing time will be decided by coach Mike Brown and that the most important thing in his mind is having another shot at winning his first NBA ring.

"There's a lot I can learn from him,” Varejao said of having O'Neal as a teammate. "It's all the same to me as far as the minutes go. That's Mike Brown's decision. But to me the team matters the most.”

Varejao was a key figure for the Cavaliers this past season, playing a complementary role to NBA MVP LeBron James. Cleveland lost to the Orlando Magic in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.

Varejao averaged 8.6 points and 7.2 rebounds in 28.5 minutes last season.

The Brazilian forward made the commitment of playing for his country at the FIBA World Championships in Turkey next year provided they qualify.

"To play for our country is very important. We're focused and motivated,” Varejao said during a team shootaround Thursday before the game against Venezuela. "If everything goes well, we will be there. But first we need to qualify.”

Although a qualifying tournament is taking place in this city, the Brazilians don't forget that soccer is still the number one sport back home in their country.

This was some sight to see: during a short break from practice, Leandro Barbosa of the Phoenix Suns, Marcelo Huertas and another team official were passing a basketball amongst themselves. Only this time they didn't use their hands but rather their heads and feet, mixing soccer with basketball. After missing five times, Barbosa finally spearheaded a header through the net.