Friday, August 31, 2007

Team USA v. Argentina

I had the chance to catch the Team USA/Argentina basketball game last night (this morning, really, since it was on starting at 12:01 am). Two observations from the game:
  • Luis Scola is good. Sure, he was being guarded by small forwards (Tayshaun Prince, Carmelo Anthony), but Team USA really had no answer for him. The only person who stopped him in the game was himself--he picked up some silly fouls early so his playing time was severely limited. It was considered a little puzzling when San Antonio traded his rights to the Rockets earlier this summer for basically nothing. Now, having seen him play, I'd call it downright baffling.
  • Team USA can't take care of its defensive boards. I couldn't find the stats from the game, but I remember at halftime last night Argentina was winning the rebounding battle 20-15, despite shooting 38% from the floor (and with Team USA shooting about 60%). So despite having significantly fewer defensive rebounds available to them (the easier kind to grab), Argentina was winning the rebounding battle. I would love to know what Team USA's defensive rebounding rate (DRR) was last night. I can't imagine it was very good. Against full strength teams at the Olympics, this sort of poor performance on the defensive glass could be a real problem.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Can the Kobe fun start again now?

In his article at today, Chris Sheridan drops this little nugget at the end:
Bryant, by the way, said he "hadn't really had a chance to speak to" Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, who was in attendance Wednesday night.
Drama! Excitement! Intrigue!

Considering the blow-out games that have occurred at the Tournament of the Americas (see here for a description of Team USA's latest rout, led by a perfect first half from Lebron James), I'm almost excited for the Kobe-circus to resume....

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Went to the gym and nobody was home

I went to the gym yesterday afternoon to try and get one more run in before leaving on my road-trip to Alaska. Unfortunately, no one else was around so I just spent an hour practicing my NBA range 3-pointers (because I'll definitely shoot those in games...). Honestly, I hate showing up to the gym and not being able to find a game. You're all hyped up to play and looking forward to getting some exercise, and just stand there. And shoot jump shots. I know "alone time" in the gym is important if you want to work on your game, but I'm not really too worried about my off-season improvement since I'm just a recreational player (although I can shoot jumpers with my left-hand out to 17 feet now). Argh! What do you do when you show up at the basketball court and no one is around? Do you just leave, or do you have some sort of routine?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

All hail the team's top scorer

Over at the Wages of Wins, they've made a bit of a career out of pointing out how fans and the media (and even NBA talent evaluators) generally just evaluate players based on their ability to score, even if those people claim that isn't what they are doing. (For an example, check out this article or this one.)

Today's column by Chris Mannix provides an excellent example of this dynamic:

2. Carmelo Anthony is the USA's best player

I got a curiously large amount of email last week when I proclaimed Anthony the U.S.' top threat. But there really is no argument. Anthony is the team's leading scorer (22.6 points per game) and seems to have realized that even the physically superior opponents are no match for his strength inside. After a Dwight Howard free throw attempt in the first quarter against Mexico on Monday, Anthony muscled 300-pound former Washington Wizards center Horacio (don't call me Lorenzo) Llamas underneath the rim and collected the rebound. His three-point shooting has been excellent as well (61.1 percent), making him virtually unstoppable in this tournament.

Carmelo is scoring well, and therefore he's Team USA's best player. Really? We can't do better than this sort of evaluation? Oh well.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Team USA continues to roll

I'm packing and traveling for the next couple of weeks, so my posting schedule will probably be a bit sporadic and my posts will probably fall on the lighter side of things.

I had a chance to watch two of Team USA's games this weekend. Despite the blow-out victories, I think Team USA might be in for some real problems when the Olympics (and the better international teams) roll around. The game against Brazil was particularly worrisome, even though the game turned into a demolition derby. In the first quarter, Brazil was able to stay close simply because its guards didn't turn the ball over in the face of Team USA's defensive pressure. They had fairly good success in the half-court (at half-time, I think Brazil was shooting just about 50% from the field), and Team USA was getting fewer run-outs. Team USA's offense was still spectacular (I've been particularly impressed by Michael Redd--he can shoot!), and against these teams that is more than enough, but I'm worried that won't be the case against some of the European teams (or Argentina when they have their full complement). Carmelo Anthony's defense against other power forwards is a continuing issue. He's getting plaudits for his offensive play (and rightfully so), but these commentators seem to be missing the fact that his defense is costing Team USA. There was a sequence in last night's game against Brazil that really illustrated this point. Twice in a row, Team USA's defense had Brazil up against the shot-clock when Carmelo's man drove right at him, encountering only token resistance, to score. If Team USA is going to win the Olympics, Carmelo is going to need to make stops in those situations. I know he's only doing it in garbage time, but I'm glad Coach K is playing some line-ups with two big men together. I think when the real tournament comes around, that sort of line-up is going to be vital to Team USA's ultimate success.