Kobe: “I’d rather be perceived of as a winner than a good teammate”

Just in case you’re not one of the 14 million who “like” Kobe Bryant on Facebook or one of the 60,000 or so who “liked” the following post in the first three hours of its online existence, here’s a repost. Kobe continues his game of one-upmanship on Smush Parker when that war of words between the former teammates broke out last week.

“Leadership is responsibility,” begins the mini-treatise by Not The Big Socrates. Yet somehow the Los Angeles Laker great arrives at a conclusion that he’d “rather be perceived [of] as a winner than a good teammate.” Hey, you figure it out…

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Breaking news: Pau, Marc Gasol are actually Spanish

And speaking of Olympic basketball-related fails, the folks over at Bball Headlines this morning post a disturbing number of Tweets from the US from an apparently sizable fraction of the population that has some problem comprehending Pau Gasol’s citizenship. Click the link for “Hint to American girls: [The] Gasols are Spanish.” No, really.

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USA 59, Spain 58 after 20 minutes: Notes and such

Here we go … Team USA vs Spain for the gold! What more needs to be said?

The first hype pushed at 4pm on the NBC broadcast: Kobe vs. Pau! (Clearly, BiE’s in touch with the American broadcasters…); Kobe is 1-0 in Olympic Games, doesn’t want to lose to Pau, doesn’t want to lose at all, etc.

Key stats from the final game in the 2008 Beijing Olympics; that game saw Kobe Bryant go 7-of-14 for 20 with six assists, Juan Carlos Navarro scored 18 after struggling throughout the tournament, and 56 fouls were called.

Spain is following the Liga Endesa-prescribed plan at best as possible, forcing USA to play a very slow game. Fast break points in the first quarter went just 4-0 for Team USA, and Pau Gasol is exploiting the mismatch against Carmelo in the post when possible, though that hasn’t been often.

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2012 Olympic basketball: The perspective from Spain on the gold-medal game (plus really specific Official Fearless Prediction™)

Marc and Pau: So key yet again

The Liga Endesa official website editorial staff today attempts to answer the question on the mind of USA-detractors and underdog-backers, i.e. “¿What must happen for Spain to win Olympic gold?” Below runs an extrapolation of the article, featuring eight bits of advice of varying degrees of difficulty, plus BallinEurope’s own ever-lovable Official Fearless Prediction™ on the final game of the 2012 Olympics.

Team USA is transparent enough that everyone seems to know their weaknesses and how to exploit them; the blueprint is universally known, but no one is able to implement the game plan. The enormous quantity of talent on Team USA means that playing even a perfect game does not translate to a win.

“We will try not have too many possessions, not miss many shots and control the boards,” said Juan Carlos Navarro. Doing it all at the same time is difficult, but we will try. I don’t know if we’ll reach 100 points … but the points are not important. [What’s important is] to play good defense.”

What else must be done:

Limit turnovers. It is evident that the U.S. defensive pressure up top results in many steals that finish with easy baskets on the other end. Attacking with the ball and getting off to a quick start offensively is key to the USA game. And against Team USA, passes to the wing or inside expose the offensive to further losses amidst the quick hands and speed of the American defenders.

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Spain 67, Russia 59: Gasols et al earn gold-medal try as Reds go Serbia cold in second half

Okay, so maybe Team Spain was playing possum. Or perhaps they merely hit the snooze on the alarm clock a tad too late in London. No matter: In the end, all history will remember is the final result – Spain 67, Russia 59 – and that it will be Los Rojos and not the Reds playing for the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics.

A rundown of BiE’s recent obsessions with these two teams … For Spain, the guards found their shot, Pau Gasol opened the floor like few seven-footers beyond himself can and passing (at least in the second half) was crisp and smooth. And the 22-12 (including just four for Russia in the first 30 minutes) free-throw advantage certainly helped.

Which is not to say that the would-be gold-medallists didn’t get help from their adversaries. After going turnover-free in the first half, Spain’s run in the fourth quarter was buoyed by an incredibly awful series in which Russia gave up the TO on five of six consecutive possessions.

Worse yet for them, as BBC commentary noted, this may be the last go-around for Team Russia as we know it…

As for Serge Ibaka, well, the Blockmaster got very little playing; admittedly not without reason. Among the lowlights were a couple TOs, bouncing a fast-break dribble off his foot and watching Sergey Monya elevate in his face, then over it, then bury a three over it in the second quarter.

Again, though, it was 67-59 to Spain; congratulations to the winners. Sorry to see you go out like that, Russia; good luck in the bronze-medal game, see a bunch of you in Moscow and Minnesota, etc.

And yes, BiE has to admit it: As reader Max says, “Oh man, you’re really on fire with the predictions. Spain maybe are aging, but we’re not washed up yet.”

Syndicated game recap runs below the break.

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2012 Olympic basketball: Rising and falling stock after the first round

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.

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Brazil 88, Spain 82: Allegations of tanking predictably begin

Well, it had to happen. In the wake of the shocking (not!) defeat handed to Spain by the boys from Brazil yesterday, you knew allegations of tanking in order to avoid an earlier date with Team USA would be forthcoming; heck, Sergio Scariolo did. Los Rojos’ coach was quoted in a wire story as saying, I don’t want to be disrespectful but this is not an intelligent issue to talk about.”

Amid the rather baseless speculation much is sadly forgotten: For example, Leandro Barbosa’s wonderful performance. Brazil showing halfcourt mastery in beating Spain at its own game and the South American side’s nicely energetic and up-tempo style. More sad, slow play from the Spanish guards and sharpshooters (BiE’s looking at you, Juan Carlos) absolutely typical in these Olympics. The fact that the overall 6-of-23, 23-point performance by those not named Gasol or Ibaka was merely a slight exaggeration of the pool play games in general, as Spain minus the big three went for 37.8% overall shooting.

Tanking? Nah. Playing possum? Hardly necessary. As Pau Gasol said, “The way we are playing either [Argentina or France] can beat us. Right now, it’s not happening for us.”

No, it really isn’t.

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2012 Olympics: Is Spanish dominance over? (Plus Official Fearless Predictions™)

BallinEurope may be pulling the trigger a bit early on this one, but has to ask: Was the loss to Russia on Saturday a harbinger of things to come from Team Spain? Not to put too fine a point on it, but is the marathon (by today’s standards) golden age of Spanish basketball in international competition over?

It is that sheer length of the era of Spanish dominance that makes one wonder about the security of Los Rojos’ presumptive top-dog status going forward: Since 2001, Team Spain has medalled in nine of 13 international tournaments – including the Olympic Games, FIBA Eurobasket, FIBA World Championship/Cup and Mediterranean Games. In the past six years, the Spanish have taken home three golds and five silver from FIBA and the IOC, the sole missed podium coming at the 2010 FIBA Worlds, when Pau Gasol no-showed and Team USA brought its “B Team.”

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Imagery of the 2012 Olympics, as tweeted by basketball stars

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.

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BallinEurope’s Official Fearless Predictions™: 2012 Olympic Basketball Group B

And now, round two. Or maybe that should be “round B.” With BallinEurope having (sort of) Fearlessly Predicted the entries for the 2012 Olympic basketball knockout stage from Group A, it’s onto the Official Fearless Predictions™ for Group B – and we’ll do this one from the bottom up.

BallinEurope's upset specialists: Team Britain...

6. China (0-5)
5. Australia (1-4)
4. Britain (2-3)

Damn right BiE’s going there, taking Team Britain to advance for purely selfish reasons: BiE wants the European sweep. BiE supports the fledgling program they’re trying to maintain on the Isle where basketball is a low (*low*) priority in sports fans’ hearts. BiE loves the proverbial pluckiness, the dogged daring, Luol Deng and Pops Mensah-Bonsu. And because BiE wants the highlight YouTube clip potential of a USA-Britain Olympic tournament game.

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