Monday, September 13, 2010
First Cup: Monday
- Pete Thamel of The New York Times: "Kevin Durant, the tournament’s most valuable player, scored 28 points to lead the United States to an 81-64 victory and its first world championship since 1994. In pounding his chest in celebration after two clutch third-quarter 3-pointers that put the game out of reach, Durant showed a swagger that should carry over to his N.B.A. season with the Oklahoma City Thunder. 'Offensively, we just rode his tail the whole way,' his teammate Andre Iguodala said. Durant’s dominance underscores the larger theme of this American victory. The team came here without a single member of the 2008 gold-medal-winning Olympic team but won in part because of the larger infrastructure Jerry Colangelo has built at USA Basketball since 2006, in the wake of several embarrassing performances in the past decade. The keys to the victory over Turkey -- Durant on offense and a tenacious defense -- can be traced back to USA Basketball’s increased relevance among elite American players. Durant is the only player to participate in USA Basketball events for each of the past five summers, biding his time on the Select Team before earning this opportunity."
- Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: "Kevin Durant was amazing in Istanbul. His overall numbers: 22.8 points a game, 56 percent shooting, 46 percent 3-point shooting. Yes, the NBA 3-point line is anywhere from 19 to 39 inches longer than the international line. Which is less relevant to Durant than most players. Durant shoots deep threes. Shoots from territory that defenders can't imagine he'll launch. Most of his Turkish 3-pointers were NBA 3-pointers. Even more impressive for Durant, his shooting improved in the biggest games. From the quarterfinals on, Durant made 15 of 34 3-pointers. In a 70-68 pool-play squeaker over Brazil, Durant made four of six. That's 19 of 40, .475 percent, when Durant was needed most. If Durant's NBA 3-point percentage can approach his Istanbul fortnight, he becomes close to unguardable. ... Russell Westbrook, who elevated his game when the stakes were high. Westbrook averaged 7.5 points and 1.8 rebounds in the first six U.S. games; in the final three, Westbrook averaged 12.3 points and 5.0 rebounds. Westbrook missed his only two 3-point shots before the quarterfinals; he made three of five from the quarters on. Westbrook isn't ever going to be a 3-point gunner, but if he can develop a consistent 18-foot jumper, he's an all-star himself. Westbrook never has lacked for confidence, but his belief in himself has to be soaring after Istanbul. Thank you, World Championships. You just made this Oklahoma City NBA season even more promising."
- Andre Iguodala for the Philadelphia Daily News: "What a great feeling and what a fun experience that was. We won because we worked so hard in practice and put so much of ourselves into winning the gold medal, and it all paid off. The whole experience was just unbelievable. They treated us like kings ever since we started getting together for this. And after we won, it was just an extension of that. They were so hospitable to us, had our family and friends for a party with great food and all after the game. I just can't even describe how well we were treated during the whole time we were practicing and playing, trying to win the gold medal. This whole experience was like getting drafted again. At the time, getting drafted was the summit of our careers, and for most of us this is another high. A lot of us have won championships before at certain levels, and that was great. But this one, to win it for our country, is incredible. And the best part about it is that we did it right. We worked so hard in becoming the best team we could be in order to get this championship. It's going to be a hectic 24 hours from here. We will land around noon or so (today) in New York, then we are going to a Jay-Z concert at Yankee Stadium and we'll celebrate the gold medal some more. I'll get to Philly for a little while after that to get some things set up to get all my stuff delivered there for training camp."
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "With the first morning traning-camp practice just 12 days away, Kevin Love flew home on Team USA's chartered flight from Turkey at 3 a.m. Monday Istanbul time after he and Team USA walked off with World Championships gold medals following an 81-64 victory over host Turkey. Love played just the final minute-plus Sunday night, after Kevin Durant once again long before he assured the Americans of victory. Even if Durant ONLY scored 28 points this time. Wolves assistant GM Tony Ronzone -- a scout and member of Team USA's staff since 2007 -- sent a photo of himself and Love celebrating the gold from his cell phone just after the game's end and just before he and Love, at least according to Ronzone's text message, 'on our way now to have Diet Coke at the Nike Hospitality room' before catching that middle-of-the-night flight back home to where the NBA season soon awaits. 'World Champs for USA,' Ronzone texted. 'Now TWolves time.' "
- Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: "The biggest benefit from winning the gold is the U.S. gets an automatic berth in the 2012 London Olympics, which means no qualifying next summer when the NBA could be in a lockout. The biggest question now is who wears the Red, White and Blue in London? It’s easy to imagine a scenario where Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh put down their pina coladas in Miami, pat members of this team on the head and say, 'Thanks for making things easy on us.' Sure, the ’08 players got the job done in Beijing. But a team featuring Wade, James, Bosh, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Joe Johnson and Chris Paul took bronze at the ’06 World Championships in Japan. Durant is going to be on the 2012 team, no question. He probably took the first step toward becoming the 2011 NBA MVP with his dominant performance in Turkey. But should Wade, James, Bosh, Howard, Paul and Kobe Bryant jump back into international competition and take spots away from Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Andre Iguodala, Rudy Gay, Stephen Curry or Kevin Love? Even Clippers guard Eric Gordon was the team’s fourth-leading scorer. Lamar Odom might have been the second most valuable player on this squad. Bryant will turn 34 in August, 2012, so it’s easy to see him retiring from Team USA, but most of the others figure to be candidates for the next Olympic team. With marketing and TV ratings in mind, USA Basketball isn’t likely to turn away James, Wade, Bosh or Howard. But shouldn't the group that earned the automatic berth in the London Olympics be the one to compete? Some interesting choices lie ahead."
- Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Based on their Twitter traffic, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh all were interested parties to Team USA’s 81-64 victory Sunday over Turkey in Istanbul in the title game of the World Championships. Why shouldn’t they be? They just were given a year off. With the victory, the United States earned an automatic bid to the 2012 London Olympics. Had Team USA lost Sunday, it would have meant a round of Americas qualifying next summer in Argentina. And that might have given Wade, James and Bosh second thoughts about an extra year of year-round basketball. Now they’re talking a mere month of a commitment in 2012. ... As well as the upstart U.S. team performed these past three weeks, it is not as if there are many sure things in place beyond Kevin Durant. Even Derrick Rose, with his shaky outside shot, became somewhat of a question mark for Team USA moving forward, in the FIBA world of zones. Is it fair that Wade, James and Bosh can now swoop in? As fair as elite Olympian sprinters and swimmers taking a place in championship relays after allowing others to handle the qualifying."
- Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "For purposes of this exercise, let's assume Carmelo Anthony is gone from the Nuggets. What is next? Here's what might happen. Kenyon Martin is traded. J.R. Smith is traded, which the Nuggets have already tried to do. They think about doing the same with Chris Andersen. Simply start over. The Nuggets love Ty Lawson. He'll be part of the new youth movement. No matter what outsiders think of Nene, the fact of the matter is a 6-foot-11 player with that kind of athleticism who averages 13.8 points and 7.6 rebounds a game doesn't grow on trees. Let him go and he'll be on a new team in 2.2 seconds. Even if you tear your hair out in frustration thinking he ought to play with more aggressiveness, you may be right, but you still want him on the team. Trust me. Keeping Chauncey Billups would be an enormous bonus from a leadership/grooming standpoint. But in two seasons when his contract is up, he'll take stock in the team and wonder if he wants to spend his final years in the NBA on a rebuilding unit. He has already told me he is not especially interested in that. ... Seasons of 30 wins have to be endured. But with the right draft picks, the right coaching to accompany it and patience to let it grow, the Nuggets can get themselves back just fine. It starts with getting good young talent and high draft picks in return for trading away arguably the greatest player ever to put on a Nuggets uniform. That's not a convenience; it's a must. That's why the team has to pull the trigger as soon as it gets a rebuff from the forward, because the closer the Nuggets get to the trade deadline holding onto a player who is sure to leave, the less they will get for moving him. Losing Anthony will hurt, to be sure, but it doesn't have to stick a fork in the organization for a ton of years to come."
- Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "If the Mavericks can get off to a good start, it should quiet the vultures that inevitably will question whether Rick Carlisle is on the hot seat this season. Carlisle is entering the third season of his four-year contract. He's been highly respected for his game strategies and adjustments, in spite of the playing-time controversy for Roddy Beaubois in Game 6 of the playoffs last season. Pressure? 'Yeah, but that's good,' Carlisle said. 'You want to be in a situation of high expectations. That means your team is good. I love it and our team loves it. That's one of the reasons we're one of the best teams in the league in close games.' It goes back to the fact that the Mavericks have not been happy with the results of the first two seasons under Carlisle, who agrees with that assessment. 'They're both failures,' he said. 'One we got to the second round so maybe it's viewed as more successful. But we were a better team this past year. We just got beat in the first round. Our mission is to stay the course and keep working on the things we have to work on -- defense and getting better at home. That's the difference between ultimate success and perceived shades of success.' "
- Craig Stouffer of the Washington Examiner: "The Wizards have plenty of reasons to embrace a collegiate feel. Just to start, No. 1 overall draft pick and new face of the franchise John Wall turned 20 just last week, and Josh Howard (age 30) is the oldest member of a roster that averages well under 25 years old. But co-opting Midnight Madness from NCAA basketball is a step too far, even for marketing-savvy Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, who is determined to reconnect with and re-energize his team's fans in Washington. Madness works so well for colleges in part because of the specialized, close-quarters dynamic of the university campus. Lots of students, all living together and staying up very late most nights, are easily attracted to a readily accessible arena for a season-opening pep rally, especially when their team is good. But even if a couple thousand George Mason students can be persuaded to walk from their dorms to Patriot Center to see Wall do his tea-kettle fist dance, dunk and throw alley-oops to JaVale McGee, it will be harder to convince the working masses who make up the Wizards' fan base to drive out to Fairfax -- on a Monday night, no less -- just to see a faux practice. Not to mention, the Wizards' best hopes for this season are to be a fringe playoff contender in the East."
- Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Will the Pacers make the playoffs this season? That's a question I get a lot from people these days. My line to them is, 'Anything can happen in the Eastern Conference.' Will they make the playoffs? I'm not convinced it'll happen this season despite acquiring point guard Darren Collison. A lot, I mean a whole lot, has to happen for the Pacers to make the playoffs."
- John Reid of The Times-Picayune: "Avery Johnson, a New Orleans native who this summer signed a three-year contract to become the Nets’ coach, said team owner Mikhail Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire, is passionate about the game and will do whatever it takes to build a championship-contending team. With that opportunity, Johnson said he does not hold ill feelings toward the Hornets, who were unwilling to offer him the dual role of head coach and vice president of basketball operations that he desired. Johnson said he pursued the Hornets’ job because he thought minority owner Gary Chouest was on the verge of finalizing his deal to acquire George Shinn’s 75-percent stake of the team. However, with training camp set to open in two weeks, the Hornets ownership transfer is not finalized. 'I think the main thing is that I went through the process,’ said Johnson, who conducted a skills clinic for children Friday at the Louisiana Leadership Institute in Baton Rouge. 'The only thing that I was disappointed with was the process itself, and some of the things that came out. But at the same time, I’ve been friends with Monty for 10 years, and I’ve known (Hornets General Manager) Dell Demps for a long time. I think they are meant to be there, and I’m meant to be where I am at. I’m always going to be a New Orleanian and a St. Augustine grad.' "
- Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: "For a half-hour, longtime Pistons season-ticket holders, sponsors and media got to see how the other half lives before the other half actually does. The Pistons unveiled their new team plane Saturday, treating 63 people on its maiden flight to South Bend, Ind., for a tailgate and tickets to the Michigan-Notre Dame game. The players won't be able to board the new plane until its preseason trip to Miami early next month. The trip was more than four years in the making and it sure beats riding in a cramped commercial flight. The flight was smooth, from takeoff to landing. ... The cabin is divided into four sections. The coaches will sit in the front, where they can use the flat-screen monitors to analyze game film. Next up is the players' section, which has satellite radios, four PlayStation 3 consoles and DVD players. The front office is next, followed by media/guests. All seats are equipped with air conditioning units and electric outlets. There are tables for work and dining, along with 16 flat-screen TVs. The seating has leg room for 6-foot-9, 240-pound players, so accommodating people nine inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter was no issue. The team didn't just upgrade for superficial purposes, though. The previous plane didn't have enough fuel capacity to go cross-country in one trip. It would have to refuel in North Dakota or Colorado, but now every flight will be non-stop."
- Mark Schlueb of the Orlando Sentinel: "When the Orlando Arena opened in 1989, few people had heard of the newfangled Internet, and mobile phones were the size of bricks. When its replacement opens Oct. 1, the technology inside the new Amway Center will have changed as much as it has in people's homes during the past 21 years. 'It truly will be the most technologically advanced arena facility in North America,' Orlando Magic President Alex Martins is fond of saying. Since the $480 million arena's conception, Magic and city officials have made technology an integral part of the project, from the 1,100 flat-panel video screens throughout the building to an advanced telecommunications network not much different from the one that controls America's air traffic. The state-of-the-art technology means more flash for fans, who will be bombarded with images and sound before they even walk in the door. And just as important for the team's owner, it also means more advertising cash for the Magic. 'The Magic and the city have the ability now to generate dramatically more revenue than they ever have before,' said Karl Williams, a vice president for Harris Corp., the company responsible for much of the technology."