Now that BallinEurope’s personal Olympic bracket has been shot to hell, BiE will revert to the cumulative readers/contributors’ podium picks of USA-Russia-Argentina. Followers know that BiE’s ridden Russia since the opening ceremonies and the quarterfinals, despite a Spain win, only strengthened this convinction. Below, then, are five reasons why Russia will overcome the 4.5-point favorites.
While we’re a little ways away from actually awarding medals for 2012 Olympic basketball, the first round showed international hoops fans quite a lot. Though the fat lady hasn’t sung yet, reputations have changed over the past five games to cause some individual and/or teams losses beyond these Olympics. BallinEurope today takes a look at those whose stock has risen and those who’ve fallen in the early going of the London Games.
• Lebron James. Yeah, like this guy needs a further upward trend in his already all-time lofty-looking career. Four years ago, ESPN’s Bill Simmons proclaimed (correctly, in BiE’s opinion) that in 2008 ‘Games crunch time, “everyone deferred to Kobe, who made some monster plays to clinch it. Know that in the history of the NBA we have never had the best-player-alive argument resolved so organically.” In 2012, King James has proven himself to be the best player on the best team in this Olympic tournament.
European fans (and many others) have often noted that NBA players appear to be traveling on many a routine or highlight-clip play, and Team USA backers are certainly shocked at the number of such turnovers their side has been guilty of through four games – seriously, have Lebron James and Kobe Bryant ever racked up so many travels in such a short span?
But old-timer Sarunas Jasikevicius is still seeing some bending of the rules. Saras was quoted over at Talk Basket after the Lithuania-USA game as saying, “I don’t get it. There are FIBA rules [that say that] if a player takes the ball and runs two meters, travelling must be called,” he said. “Maybe the rules will be changed in the future, but at the moment that’s travelling.
“I’m not saying that [the referees] were indulgent towards Americans, or that we lost due to the referees’ fault. Absolutely not. Simply there are rules according to which the play must be whistled; it doesn’t matter if it’s [an everyday player] or Kobe Bryant.”
Between the amazingly-named US women’s soccer goalie Hope Solo calling out Olympic TV commentator/former Team USA star Brandi Chastain in the 141-character format and the nasty little bugger who shall not be named here (not to mention the censorship of a British reporter critical of NBC coverage of the ‘Games), Twitter is having a bad Olympics.
But perhaps this will make up for things a bit … the folks at image-sharing site Pixable have put together the widget embedded below, a continually-updated real-time slideshow composed of photos and images uploaded unto Twitter by basketball Olympians. Amid the personal shots players posing with family members, fellow athletes or, in one case, Prince Harry himself, are some quite nice in-game shots – and one of handball by loyal tweeter Pau Gasol.
Also lending their photographic efforts and/or retweeting skills are Lebron James, Chris Paul, Anthony Davis, Rudy Fernandez, Swin Cash, Lisa Leslie, Candace Parker, Émilie Gomis and Deron Williams’ shoe.
Well, then. If not quite as emphatic as in the days of Dream Teams I through III, Team USA dispatched the world’s second-best/Europe’s best side for a 100-78 win over Spain in Barcelona. Though the notebook on the Red, White and Blues mostly accentuates the positive, one doesn’t quite need to squint to see chinks in the armor – particularly with that glaring asterisk in the box score, i.e. the absence of Marc Gasol and Sergio Rodriguez.
In an Olympic field that appears to be the strongest ever on paper, could a flawed team like this one still grab the gold? (And if flawed teams are in the running for a podium spot, is Lithuania more enthused?)
A few lines from BallinEurope’s notebook and other stuff (like highlights) follow.
Though not actually about European basketball, last night’s USA 86, Argentina 80 pre-Olympic friendly result leads BallinEurope to put forth a few talking points from the notebook (and highlight clips, of course)…
• Perhaps slightly flawed as a whole, the truth is that Team USA still has the best three players in the world right now in Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Lebron James. The opening 16-1 run was indicative of what this trio is capable. Eschewing playing any sort of serious inside game at all in the first 10 minutes, KD and Kobe teed off enough to outscore the entire Argentine side, 22-16; Lebron meanwhile controlled the D.
So the USA-Britain meeting in yesterday’s friendly turned out to be something described with words like “blowout,” “thrash,” “humiliate” and “eviscerate.” The last lead Team Britain had in the Red-White-and-Blues’ 118-78 win in Manchester was at 2-0, and the Brits resumed a discouraging tendency from the Eurobasket 2011 tournament, mentally lapsing and collapsing in head coach Chris Finch’s estimation, to be outscored 63-39 in the second 20 minutes.
This one goes out by request to BallinEurope’s Lithuanian agent Y. … with Team USA coming together to play the Dominican Republic today – with or without Chris Paul – BiE tries to answer the question “Who [if anyone] can beat Team USA?”
A few gauntlets have been thrown by the Americans already, the least of which is certainly not the roster itself. That roster, one more time, is the following.
Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks)
Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers)
Tyson Chandler (Dallas Mavericks)
For those not necessarily in the know about European basketball, the announcement of Anthony Parker’s retirement from professional hoops today may not have exactly made most sit up and take notice – just another Cleveland Cavalier gone, right?
Except that Parker’s six-year European CV is loaded with team accomplishments and individual accolades, bringing Maccabi Tel Aviv a superpower’s worth of trophies in the mid-2000s. His brief run earned him a spot on the “50 Greatest Euroleague Contributors” list in ’08 – just one of 35 players and one of five Americans – after racking up consecutive EL MVP awards, one EL Final Four nod and three European rings (two EL, the other the 2001 FIBA SuproLeague title).
BallinEurope today posts its traditional tribute to retiring greats, i.e. career rundown plus YouTube clips! To get started, then…
Okay, okay, BallinEurope’s gonna do the traditional thing … congratulations out to the Miami Heat and its clear MVP Lebron James for their 2012 NBA Championship win. James’ triple-double in the decisive game five appropriately capped a playoff run during which he fought off criticism and doomsayers as much as the Oklahoma City Thunder.
As for the Continent’s representatives in the NBA’s final game of this too-quick, madcap season … Ronny Turiaf earns his first ring after joining Miami with 21 games left to play; Le Bleu saw court time in 13. The three minutes he played in last night’s game five were his first in the series, but kudos nevertheless. BiE can’t help but wonder how long it’ll be until Turiaf’s balling here full-time in Europe…