August 2004 - Posts

Team USA lost 89-81 to Argentina in the semi-finals, meaning the best they can do at this point is a bronze, assuming they win their final game against Lithuania.  This is the first non-gold medal basketball team the US has put forward since 1988.  This is the third US loss this Olympics, giving the '04 Team USA the dubious distinction of having eclipsed the total number of losses by all other USA mens basketball teams throughout the history of the Olympics combined.

Kind of depressing, but what is to be expected when sending young, unprepared players not accustomed to international play, with a roster that was chosen more for star appeal and team player diversity than for the purpose of winning games.  Oh well, there's always '08.

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Rudy Tomjaovich has publicly stated that he believes the Mailman will play next season in Purple and Gold.
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Not to be outdone by the drama effusing from past team mates Shaq & Kobe, the Glove has come out publicly and stated that he has absolutely no intention for playing with the Celtics next year.  Earlier I blogged about Gary and Rick Fox getting traded to the Celtics, but that trade has been disintegrating ever since, with Rick Fox mulling retirement, and G.P. outright saying he has absolutely no intention of moving to Boston.  Displaying his maturity and verbal acumen, Payton was quoted as saying:

I'll quit. I can go on and do something else. I wasn't going to Boston to take a physical. I ain't going to move my family no more. I can't take my family to Boston.

Payton stands to forfeit the $5.4 million dollar salary promised him this year by the Lakers, who he had resigned with in the off-season.

In the end, does this really surprise anyone?  It's not necessarily that you'd expect GP to pull a stunt like this - although that, in itself, is not at all alarming - but who thought Danny Ainge could actually do something right, without it backfiring on him?  I think there is some sort of cosmic force working against Ainge... just ask Vin Baker, LaFrentz, Walker, or any die-hard Boston fan.

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Team USA was embarassed by Peurto Rico, 92-73, marking the first loss by Team USA since pro players were allowed to be added to the rosters, and only the third such loss since basketball has been added as a sport to the Olympics.  This 19 point drubbing was by the team that the U.S. beat by 20+ points in the first Olympic exhibition game back about a month or so.

Mark Cuban summed up the feelings of the nation in his latest six-word blog entry: What's wrong with Team USA Basketball?

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Well, it appears that the civil suit against Kobe Bryant is being dropped.  Prosecuters have asked for “an indefinite delay” in the trial proceedings, which is basically a nice way of saying, We're not going to press charges any further.  Couple that with the fact that the alledged rape victim has filed a civil suit, and it's pretty clear that the criminal trial is dead in its tracks.

So Kobe is a free man.  He'll be playing ball next year for the Lakers and, assuming he can keep from having alledgedly forcible sex with unattractive service workers, he'll be balling for many more years.  While Kobe has escaped any threat of jail time, his escape from jail has cost him dearly financially.  His lawyer fees have been, to this point, no doubt astronimical, and the civil suit could drain even more from Bryant's coffers, and will likely end with Bryant paying an out-of-court settlement to end this whole mess.

I hope Kobe has learned his lesson, namely that adultery is nearly the stupidest thing you could do, short of marrying a 19 year old without a prenuptual agreement.

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According to this story on ESPN.com, the Lakers have traded Gary Payton, Rick Fox, a conditional first-round draft pick, and some cash to the Boston Celtics for Chris Mihm, Chucky Atkins, Marcus Banks, and a second-round draft pick.

This trade sends Fox back to the Celtics, where he started his career.  I had hoped the Lakers could have kept Fox around (Gary, too), but you can't blame them for moving them, seeing as both had less than optimal performances last season.  To be fair, Fox was coming off a serious injury from the 2003 playoffs, but he was virtually non-existent in this year's playoff run.  Ditto for Payton.

I think this pretty much answers whether Karl Malone will come back - and that's a big NO.  With both Gary and Shaq gone, I can't see Karl wanting to suit up in likely his last season with Kid Kobe.  No, Karl's either headed for retirement, or for one last run with a championship-calliber team.  (I'd like to see Karl keep playing while he's able, so hopefully he'll be able to sign on with the Spurs or some other organization with a shot this year.)

So who will be the starting five next season?  Here's my guess:

  1. Divac (although don't expect him to play major minutes)
  2. Butler
  3. Odom
  4. Kobe
  5. Rush

At least that's what I hope the starting five will look like.  Who knows, Rush isn't a natural point guard like Fisher or Payton were, and while Kobe can certainly handle brining the ball up the court it's nice to have him be able to play SG instead.  Maybe Atkins or Banks will get the starting call, but I doubt it.  Another option would be to have Divac come off the bench, and start Grant / Mihm, or have Grant starting at the 4 and Butler coming off the bench.

In any case, I think the Lakers bench is significantly better this year than the past several years, although their starting lineup has taken a hit.  The bench players, depending on who starts, could include:

  • Rush
  • Walton
  • Grant
  • Butler
  • Divac
  • Atkins
  • Medvedenko
  • George

Not an All-Star squad by any stretch of the imagination, but a solid group of ball-smart folks who aren't going to be pulling silly mistakes in crunch-time.

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According to this story, Peja Stojakovic is demanding that the Kings trade him; he has two years left on his contract, with an option for a third.

Supposedly this comes as a surprise to Kings management, although, if you think about it, it's really not too far off.  Recall last year that Peja was playing lights out while Webber was out, and was mentioned among the whispers of reporters as a possible MVP, his name muttered in the same breath as KG and Kobe.  But when Webber came back, Peja cooled off, and Webber wasn't able to get back into the full swing of things in time before bowing out of the 2nd round of the playoffs after a Game 7 loss to Minnesota.

Take Peja's disappointing end of the season, an early exit from the playoffs, and the hushed insults that were traded between Webber and Peja as their team's season ended, and add to that the fact that the Kings didn't resign Vlade Divac, and it's not at all surprising that Peja wants out.  The real question now is what will the Kings do?  Clearly it's in their interest to trade him, but I wonder who they'll go for.  And here I thought that the interesting parts of this offseason had come to and end!

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After losing by 18 to Italy, Team USA just about lost again, this time to Germany.  Team USA won with a last shot 3 pointer to take the game, 80-77.  What's particularly sad about this near loss is that it came to a team that didn't even make the cut to go to Athens.  The next Team USA exhibition game is against Serbia-Montenegro - I'm expecting a hearty loss from the Americans, sadly.  Fortunately, the first “real” basketball game in this year's Olympics for the US is against Puerto Rico, who they decimated by 25 in their first exhibition game.

There's some great commentary pieces on ESPN.com relating to Team USA and their dismal performance thus far this year.  Ric Bucher has a good piece that calls for a year-round national team.  His basis premise is that Team USA enters the Olympics at a major disadvantage for three key points:

  1. The International game and the NBA game are radically different - the NBA game allows less physical play out from the basket, and more physical play inside, where as the refs call International games oppositely.  The paint is rectangular, meaning big men can camp closer to the basket, whereas in International play it's trapezoidal, forcing the bigs further out from the basket.
  2. The atheletic superiority of Team USA no longer out-trumps the teamwork and chemistry of the international teams who have played together for years.
  3. The Olympic games introduce too great an opportunity for injury and fatigue.  For that reason, many of the NBA's key players opt out (KG, Kobe, Shaq, etc.).

Bucher then calls for a year-round national team, made up of good players from the NBDL and CBA.  He writes:

Why not build a national team that trains and plays together at various times year round? ... You don't think you could find a composition of players from the NBDL and CBA who wouldn't be happy to get a $50K supplement to their incomes?

I think he has a good point, but Bucher admits that such hoping is fanciful, since the NBA wants to send the players who are not necessarily going to have the best team, but draw the most interest to the league.  When it comes down to it, it's about selling merchandise around the world, not winning a medal.

Bill Simmons also has a great piece (as always): This Dream Team is Doomed.  Bill picks out his ideal players for Team USA.  For the starting five:

  1. Duncan
  2. Odom
  3. Michael Redd
  4. Rip Hamilton
  5. Dwayne Wade

Off the bench we'd see:

  • Brad Miller
  • Tyshaun Prince
  • Iverson
  • LeBron
  • Amare Stoudemire
  • Brian Cardinal (for the hussle and enthusiasm)
  • Shane Battier / Fred Hoiberg

 

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The U.S. Men's Olympic Basketball Team lost - hard - to the Italians in an exhibition game.  The Italian team won 95-78.  The good news is that this game is just an exhibition, but if our boys are losing by nearly 20 points against the Italians, how are they going to fare against teams with more experienced rosters?  Kind of scary.

While the fans like having the US All Stars at the Olympics, I wonder if the US would fare better if it sent just a mid-pack NBA team, like the Sonics or Bucks.  Would a team that's played 82+ games together in the past season be able to outperform an All Star team with 12 players who haven't had time to gel?  Also, would the US be in this predicament if some of the guys who dropped out would have played (I'm looking in your general direction, Shaq and Kobe)?

In any event, it's good to see that international competition has improved, but it's a bit embarassing to see our boys get manhandled when the US is supposed to have the best ballers in the world.  Meh.

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