Monday, August 13, 2012
First Cup: Monday
- 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.