Tag Archives: 2008 Olympics

When the levee breaks … Michael Redd’s shooting may still be an issue

Gustav pounds the canals of New Orleans, Reuters photo APThe levees held, though New Orleans’ downriver quarters seem to have taken quite a beating from Hurricane Gustav. A shout out to friends and former neighbors Uptown in the Irish Channel and the Garden District, a few of whom I know didn’t leave despite being a lot more spooked this time than they were before Katrina hit. They’re on higher ground in those upriver areas, where the big worry is not the storm so much as how people will react during and after it, again going back to Katrina when the world went mad. So much water …

Now that Gustav’s spun itself down from hurricane to tropical storm status and headed for Texas, I think it’s safe now to turn our attention to the Bucks-o-sphere. (Easy to say for someone who hasn’t lived on the gulf coast in this decade). The Bucks first preseason game is 34 days away and it’s time to begin wondering how things will pan out for the 2008-09 Bucks.

But first, we find Brewhoop still  blowing up a storm to wash away any flotsam and jetsam from Michael Redd‘s disappointing Olympics.

The Olympics seemed a hangover from last season for both Redd and Andrew Bogut (and Yi Jianlian too). Bogut’s Olympics proved to be quite a story as he fought injuries and a coach joined at the hip with the failing Aussie pro league, yet, despite a difficult transition period for basketball Australia, the Bucks center found success, scoring 45 points in 46 minutes in the two games that thrust Australia into its quarterfinal matchup with Team USA. 

Today, however, the post-Olympic focus is again Redd, whose hangover from 2007-08 is indeed a wicked one. After shooting poorly last season (71st in the league on 2-point shots outside the paint, according to 82games.com; 92nd on 3-pointers), Redd lost his job as shooting specialist on Team USA. No, let’s rephrase that. Redd’s job as shooting specialist was eliminated after two games and he became a garbage time player.

The point that needs to be underscored here is that Redd’s Olympic performance was not simply a bad streak that happened to occur during the Olympics; it was a continuation of last season’s slump. This was the point that Brewhoop’s Alex Boeder conveniently ignores when he cites Redd’s abominable Olympic shooting stats and writes:

Of course, [Redd] didn’t really have a chance to work his way into a groove, and he’s not suddenly a bad shooter. He was simply off for what amounted to about two NBA games worth of minutes.


He had a difficult time adjusting, no doubt about that. The point made here which still stands is that there was nothing sudden about Redd being “off.”

Three-point specialist Redd finished last on Team USA in three-point shooting percentage. Yes, it’s true. (The link is to the official Olympic stats.) Couple the disappointing Olympics with last year’s shooting — in which Redd shot 36.3% on three-pointers (not bad but very middle of the NBA road) and only 41.8% on jump shots outside the paint.– and it appears that Michael Redd’s mythology as a great NBA shooter is in need of some major rehab.  His 41.8% figure on 2-point jump shots tied Redd with Rasheed Wallace for 71st in the NBA.


Michael Redd shooting

Certainly Redd’s ability to adjust to a new coach, Scott Skiles — one who is vigilant about defense and ball movement — is one of key questions facing the Bucks. Neither of those Skiles prerequisites are Redd’s strengths. His main strength (or what has been believed to be Redd’s main strength), shooting the basketball, could also bear some scrutiny.

And let’s face it: For many Bucks fans, #22 is more than a hangover from last season. He’s a recurring migraine from a forgettable era the team desperately wants to move beyond. With Mo Williams and Bobby Simmons gone and Dan Gadzuric relegated to the bench, and an experienced coach in Skiles, Redd can’t be held harmless for the losses anymore.

The Bucks record with Redd as a starter over the last four years is 110-170. That’s a lot of losing and they’ve lost those games for a number of reasons. Is one of them that the shooting star doesn’t really shoot well enough to give the team an advantage?

The 2-point jump shooting stats at 82games.com reveal that falling in behind Redd at 71st were Charlie Villanueva (128th) and Richard Jefferson (135th). Luke Ridnour was tied for 63rd, the highest two-point shooting mark achieved by a current Buck. This is not a team filled with shooters. The best the Bucks had, Mo Williams, is a Cleveland Cavalier.

Now let’s look at three-point shooting. Redd, the best 3-point shooter still on the team (Mo led the Bucks last season) came in at #92 in the NBA last season (.363) with Jefferson right behind him at 95th (.362). This is beginning to look funky for this team, as there seems no available advantage on the perimeter. The obvious candidate to back up and shoot more threes (someone has to and it better not be Charlie V) would seem to be Redd — but can he return to his three-point shooting form of six years ago when he was among the league leaders?

History would suggest no.  We can learn a lot looking at the NBA shooting stats, including that 17 guards in the NBA last season generated more scoring from 3-point land than Redd (the league leader among guards was Ray Allen, not surprisingly). Redd not only shoots an average % – he doesn’t shoot as many of them as a sharpshooter should. Two-point jump shooting in general being as bad as it is in today’s NBA, the statistically sound thing to do is to shoot threes. It generates more points. Skiles’ Bulls teams did this.

We also find that Redd’s shooting last season was not an aberration and can’t be blamed on Larry Krystkowiak. Redd has been a .369 3-point shooter since becoming the Bucks starting shooting guard (2003-04 season). 3-pointers have comprised about the same % of his shot selection during those five years. Somehow, Redd has maintained for five years a mythology as one of the NBA’s premier long range “spot up” shooters without being one. It’s truly fascinating — and somewhat reflective of how little national media attention has been paid to the Bucks these last five years. NBA fans see Redd’s name on the top ten scoring list, they see high scoring games along the way — and apparently they assume he’s draining threes. Not the case most of the time.


In the Skiles-Boylan offense, the ball moves, so you won’t find the 2008-09 Bucks standing around watching Redd and Jefferson hog the ball. Someone will have to be the go-to spot up shooter. The Bucks need that shooter to be Michael Redd, regardless of whether the Olympics showed that he has a difficult time adjusting to a new and different style of play and a faster pace. Regardless too, it seems, of how well he’s shot as a starter. 

2008-09 would be a good season for Redd to re-earn both his shooters’ mythology and his contract. If he does, Scott Skiles will look like a genius. But the question is not whether Redd will accomplish these things — it’s the more basic question of whether he can.

Maybe they can’t help it: Bucks Olympic disappointments… Luke VIDEO time!

What ref, no flop?With the Olympics ending and the British proving the old axiom that if you have Led Zeppelin at your disposal, it’s probably in your best interests to play some …  And now with the Democratic convention underway proving again one of its most tried and true party axioms — that Ted Kennedy doesn’t really resonate with the working class in Middle America, which won’t stop the party from trying (he’s not well and I’m sorry, but it’s a strange feeling starting a week knowing precisely when and where and how many times you’d heard something before said in precisely the same way you just heard it said …)

.. It’s only fitting then that our Bucks, too, played out an axiom of their own in the 2008 Olympic games. Allow me to be the one to point it out, if only because someone should. (And because my notes got away and ended up published for a few hours yesterday) So … here’ goes:

Milwaukee Bucks players, when given an opportunity, will disappoint. They’ve done it for a few years now, to the point where it’s become enough of a habit to pass into “axiom” stage. Changes in uniform, team, environment, venue and competition could not prevent our Bucks from disappointing in Beijing, almost as if the effects of the 2007-08 season were lingering like a bad hangover.

Yi streetball poseHow deep does this thing go? One of those players, Yi Jianlian, is no longer a Buck, yet even a trade with New Jersey couldn’t stop our 2007 draft pick from disappointing. He had a terrible opener against Team USA; the proud debut for the host team. There was Yi on NBC live, going scoreless in the first half, eventually being yanked from the game in the 2nd quarter after an unsportsmanlike foul. Yi did come out in the second half after the game was over and score nine points in garbage time, but that didn’t stop ESPN’s Chris Sheridan from devoting an entire column to Yi’s lousy play. Sheridan was brutal. Yi did have his moment: A key 18-foot jumper against Germany that helped send China into the quarterfinals. But he was a noshow in China’s quarterfinal loss to Lithuania. The rookie wall, it seems, is made of granite. Disappointing.

Bogut with game face vs. Lith - FIBABucks center Andrew Bogut had the best Olympics of any Buck, but that ought to tell you how deeply ingrained in the Bucks this disappointment factor is. Bogut’s Olympics was an ordeal — marred by injury and a start in which he shot only three times as Australia looked like a rec league team unsure whether or not they were in the right gym. The Aussie coach fumbled about for a couple of games and finally found his rotation in game four to salvage the Australia tournament — but in Australia’s biggest game in eight years against Team Redeem in quarterfinals, Bogut found foul trouble, more playing time problems and a second ankle injury.

Bogut did defy the Bucks jinx and dominate against Russia and Lithuania to lead Australia to the Team USA matchup – which had to make you wonder what was going on with the Autralian team. The Australian professional league is dying from lack of interest. This national team was the last hurrah for a few veteran NBL players. The coach, Brian Goorjian has been a long time NBL coach. We may never know what was going on with the team — but did you know that in six games Bogut played less than half the available minutes? He averaged 19.7 mins per game. Out of 40. Unbelievable. Disappointing..


Redd prays for dimemag - steve hill photoMichael Redd? Can Bucks fans remember back on this: When was the last time Michael Redd was not disappointing? Were there a couple of games last year in which he led the Bucks to victory? He did beat Cleveland with a buzzer beater in February. That much I recall. It was his first walk-off gamewinner ever. Perhaps it was last summer when the USA Senior Men’s team qualified for the Olympics by winning the Pan An games. Redd scored 14 pts a game in that tournament. Or maybe earlier this summer when the USA basketball cancelled its tryouts and Redd officially made the team. When the team got to Beijing, however, Redd’s role on the team eventually whittled down to nothing.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Redd was intended to be the team’s designated three-point specialist, the gunner brought on to rain highlight film jump shots to bust teams out of zone defenses. Redd began the Olympics generally receiving stints in the second quarter and the fourth. His first run, however, came up empty. He entered the game and instantly began looking for his offense, drawing a foul, missing a shot, missing another one. Coach Mike Krzyzewski pulled him from the game after 2 mins, 42 seconds. Later on in the 4th quarter it was almost sad watching Redd and Yi trade baskets after the game was decided. Sad and futile and familiar. Redd would finish the game with nine points on 3-9 shooting, three garbage time three pointers, one with 29 seconds left.

Redd would hit seven more shots over the next five games, but miss 15 and close his Olympics 10-31 from the field, 5-18 on three-pointers (27.7% rate from behind a line more than three feet closer to the hoop than the NBA’s).  Bogut, believe it or not, tied Redd with five three-pointers for the Olympics, making 5/8. Who knew he could shoot from 21 feet?

But the shooting specialist, Redd, couldn’t find his shot. By the medal games, Redd was reduced to fourth quarter minutes only. He played 5:40 against Argentina and the final 26 seconds of the gold medal game. Only Carlos Boozer played fewer minutes in the Olympics. Here’s a typical Redd note from the games, this one from Aug. 16-17 after Team USA blew out Spain:

* Redd played 12 minutes in the second half, scoring 4 pts on 2-4 shooting (0-1 from downtown). He did not play in the first half, but didn’t try to force any offense during his stint in the 2nd. With all the frenetic defense and fast-paced transition the Redeem Teamers play, they haven’t had much of a role for him.


These things won’t be written about in Bucks country as the gold medals are polished in the sports pages. Why ruin a golden moment when Redd’s the Milwaukee connection to the Redeem Team?  But when is Michael Redd going to be part of delivering winning moments on a basketball court?  One key play is not a lot to ask, is it?  Something, anything for Bucks fan to get excited about would do. Disappointing.

Realgm.com’s fine Bucks forum moderator, PaulPressey25 made a great observation on opening day of Olympic basketball play. After spending Sunday morning watching Redd, Bogut and Yi, he wondered whether their struggles stemmed from playing last season in the losing environment of the Bucks or whether the source of the problem is that, as players, they really aren’t all that good.

I’m sure many Bucks fans who saw those games had similar thoughts. The grace period on delivering excitement this coming season may be very short for the 2008-09 Milwaukee Bucks.

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Well that sure was a downer, wasn’t it? But it had to be done. I will say that, having followed Bogut and the Australia Olympic team through the Olympics, things were not as they seemed in the Aussie camp. In the end, Basketball Australia got what they needed out of the Olympics — they made the medal round and found their way to a high profile matchup with the Redeem Team. Bogut went from looking like an almost substandard center in Game 1 to all-world in Game 4 vs. Russia. Very strange stuff. Perhaps the Aussies were just to too much of a team still in transition toward its next generation to have it be any other way. I do hope the Bucks are working to get the clearest possible picture on the medical treatment Bogut received on his ankle (s) during the games.

Patrick Mills says the US had a physical and psychological advantage in the quarter final.

Remember this guy? That’s Patty Mills, the Aussie guard who dazzled (and turned 20) during the games. He’ll be back at St. Mary’s (Calif.) college this fall, playing Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine, Gonzaga et al. in the West Coast Conference (WCC). Definitely a player to watch in the NCAA this season and a hot topic all over the college and draft boards after Beijing. In fact, he’s already been mock-drafted #14 in 2009 at Draft-Express.com!  The draft junkies may may get the DTs over it, but why don’t we play some basketball first before we have another draft?

Mills was one of a quite a few players who opened a few scouting windows during the Olympics, and some of them may be worth taking a look at, even in an immediate or short term context with the Bucks … hypothetically. But there’ll be time for that in a later post. Now, in the interest of ending this post on a positive, upbeat note, here’s some more fun Luke Ridnour video.






No, Luke, no – too serious …

And don’t bother getting up, dude. Look for Luke at #4 on this Top 10 …




Redd vs. Bogut? USA vs. Australia LIVE GAME NOTES

Australia's Brad Newley guards KobeWEDNESDAY’S QUARTERFINALS – Here’s the NBC online link.

1-USA (5-0) vs. 4-Aus. (3-2) – 7AM Final USA 116, Aus 85

2-Spain (4-1) vs. 3-Croatia (3-2)  Final Spain 72, Croatia 59

3-Greece (3-2) vs. 2-Argentina (4-1)  Final Argentina 80, Greece 78

4-China (2-3) vs. 1-Lithuania (4-1) Final Lith. 94, China 68

Spain, Lithuania, Team USA and Argentina — yes, the usual suspects of basketball international — have advanced to the semi-finals where they’ll decide who gets what hardware. 

Go here for NBC video replays, boxscores, play by plays and recaps.  Or stay right here and read all about it … Why is NBC showing beach volleyball right now?

LIVE GAME NOTES: AUSTRALIA v. USA

1ST QUARTER… Bogut is whistled for 2 quick fouls in the first five minutes and sent to the bench. Dwight Howard  off to a great start – 3/4 from the field, led scoring early with 8 pts. Just like a Bucks-Magic game. USA leads 24-21 at end of first quarter. … Bogut’s backup, veteran Chris Antsey, is making shots, so not having Bogut out there is only hurting on the defensive end.

2ND QUARTER… Bogut back in playing w/ two fouls. He gets two hoops in the post. Patty Mills, the quicksilver guard has 8 pts and is playing good minutes – he’s played 10 already. Australia is hanging in there, down 38-31 …  Carmelo Anthony is shooting well, leads all scorers with 12; Lebron has 10. If Lebron and Carmelo continue to shoot well, Australia has little hope. It’s 50-43 … No team has hung in there this well vs. Team Redeem. Brad Newley – Houston Rockets 2nd round pick in 2007 – has 8 and is starting to hit for the Boomers (the Aussies are the only country that gives their national teams official names; the women’s team is the Opals). 

55-43 at half. Kobe and Lebron are shooting a lot — 20 shots between them, 20 pts. This is the first time we’ve seen this from team USA, the stars exerting control and dominating the ball. D-Wade isn’t getting shots, and the Aussies are taking care of the ball. Carmelo and Lebron lead all scorers w/ 12 at half.

HALFTIME NOTES: Bogut hasn’t picked up his 3rd foul, so he’ll get a reboot in the 3rd quarter. I suppose the US will jam it in to Howard to pick up the 3rd foul and run Bogut back to the bench. Aussie captain Matt Nielson is in foul trouble, too, as usual, with three. But David Anderson, one of the best centers left in Europe, only has one. Time for Anderson to step up and out and shoot some threes. C.J. Bruton, the shooter, has only taken two shots – Kidd and CP3 have been all over him. Newley, Bruton and Mills lead Aus. in minutes played, so YES, Aussie coach Goorjian has played his best players. Bogut of course had the foul trouble, cutting his minutes down to eight.

Carmelo is 4/6 from the floor and 1/2 from downtown. Team USA is 4/14 from downtown. Australia could be in this if the poor US shooting keeps up.  Australia only has 8 turnovers – the best job any team has done in the Olympics taking care of the ball  vs. Team Redeem’s relentless D.  Michael Redd has not left the bench.

3rd QUARTER – Will Team USA go into Howard? NO. KOBE goes on a rampage, scoring 8 points in an 11-0 USA run, extending the 12-point halftime lead to 23 at 66-43, orcing an Aussie timeout.  Carmelo drained a three for the other points. Carmelo and Kobe 11 – Australia 0.  Well, at least the Aussies lasted a half …. Bogut has his 3rd foul, and has been sent to the bench, even though this game is on the verge of being over unless his team makes a run …

So it’s now 80-52 and Bogut has been on the bench most of the 3rd quarter with the 3rd foul.  Chris Antsey, 33-years-old, playing in his last Olympics, has been given most of the center minutes for Australia.  I suppose this is a send-off of sorts for Antsey but how did it help the Aussies in the 3rd quarter? Would it have made a difference had Bogut fouled out helping to hold the USA lead within reason?  In the very least Bogut could have rebounded and helped on D — Team Redeem is killing the Boomers on the boards

This refusal of Aussie coach Goorjian to play his best players keeps rearing its head. He throws in the towel quickly and tosses games to his scrub vets. (This was the pattern vs. Coratia). I thought perhaps he had learned his lesson against Russia when the Boomers won playing Bogut, Bruton, Mills and Newley heavy minutes. Today, Goorjian jumped at the opportunity to yank Bogut and play Antsey, exactly what Team USA wanted him to do. Kobe took it right at Bogut after halftime, trying to draw to draw that 3rd whistle and get the only bonafide NBA center left in the Olympics (other than Howard) out of the game. Bogut’s own coach was a willing accomplice, and took Bogut out of the tournament.

So Bogut has played 11 minutes, taken five shots, scored 4 pts, grabbed 2 rebs and earned 3 fouls. It’s the 4th quarter now. Strange to leave Bogut sitting. Ankles again? The rout is on … What’s the score here? … 106-78. 

Kobe was Kobe coming out the locker room at halftime, the first time in these Olympics that he’s taken over a game. Today was also the first time Team USA was challenged into halftime. Apparently that didn’t sit too well with Kobe. He had 17 points after the half, finishing with a game-high 25. 

116-85 Final – Boxscore 

… Team Redeem outrebounded the Aussies 57-28 … One would think that Bogut might have been able to help on the glass in the second half. It’s difficult to rebound a basketball when you’re on the bench.

First the Spain blowout Saturday, now this one … The Redeem Team is probably unbeatable. The international teams do not have players who can guard Kobe or Lebron. Bruce Bowen and Paul Pierce are not in Beijing about to suit up for Argentina, Lithuania or Spain. If Kobe or Lebron isn’t lighting up the scoreboard, Carmelo Anthony or D-Wade is … Sometimes Team USA gets three of those four guys going at once. On this day, D-Wade didn’t do much scoring but hauled down 8 rebounds. Carmelo had 15 pts., Lebron 16 pts, 9 rebs … Howard had those 8 points early, 7 rebs … 

*Michael Redd did play 8.5 mins in garbage time. He scored 5 points on  2/3 shooting (1/2 on 3-pointers). Redd is now 10/31 from the floor in six Olympic games, 5/18 shooting from 3-point land. That 5th three tied Redd with Bogut in the Milwaukee Bucks Olympic 3-point shootout. Bogut was 5/7 in group play, so … technically Bogut is still in the lead.

*Jason Kidd shot again – twice this game, and made them both.


Team Redeem moves on to play Argentina and the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili, the only All-NBA player left in this tournament who is not on Team USA. (Yao Ming and Dirk Nowitzki were the other two). The Ginobili-led squad may be the only team that has any hope of giving Team Kobe and Lebron a game. Unlike Australia, where the best players often sit, Argentina goes full throttle with Ginobili and the Houston Rockets’ active big man, Luis Scola, playing 32-plus minutes a game. Today against Greece, Ginobili and Scola played a combined 70 minutes.

QUARTERFINAL RECAPS

Scola sidesteps howling teammateArgentina 80, Greece 78  Carlos Delfino shot Argentina to a 6-point lead late in the 3rd quarter with two three-pointers and the defending Olympic champs held off Greece the rest of the way. Delfino, a bench player in Detroit and Toronto the last four years, finished with 23 and Ginobili led with 24 points. Scola contributed 11 pts, 8 rebs in a workmanlike 37 mins, and Chicago Bulls forward Andres Nocioni added 12. Together, those four scored 70 of Argentina’s 80 points. The 5th member of “the Fab Five,” Fabricio Oberto, the Spurs’ oft-starting power forward, did not score. Shockingly, Argentina shot only five free throws, to 18 by Greece. Usually, Ginobili in particular is adept at getting to the line, especially in FIBA games. Antonios Fotsis led Greece with 17 pts.

Spain 72, Croatia 59  Croatia is an up and coming team (Green Bandwagon has a good take) but the hot shooting that torched Australia in Game 1 has gone cold. The sons of Toni Kukoc shot 12-16 from 3-point land vs. Australia but only 5-19 this morning. LA Laker Pau Gasol of Spain led all scorers with 20. Jose Calderon (the Raptors point guard who made T.J. Ford expendable) played only 18 minutes, but shot 4/5 including two threes. Reyes, the forward, who led Spain in scoring during the debacle vs. Team USA Saturday – he had 13. Reyes seems like a good, tough player who can make shots. 

Lithuania 94, China 68  China hung in there for much of the first half (it was 31-27 in the 2nd quarter) but Lithuania, led by Sarunas Jasikevicius, gradually pulled away after that. The Chinese starting five – Yao, Yi, Sun, Zhu and Liu, the point guard – doesn’t get much rest. Jasikevicius, who hit 7 threes against Allen Iverson, Lebron James, et al, in Athens 2004, scored 23 to lead this one — on eight shots!  He was 5/6 on three-pointers.  Jasikevicius played in the NBA (Pacers and Warriors) until 2007 and is ballin’ in Greece these days. Sign him up, John Hammond, Jasikevicius is a real shooting guard. He plays some D too, so I hear.     ….Yao Ming tried to keep China in it but got no help. Yi Jianlian of New Joizey started well, with 6 in the first quarter, but got nothing afterward, until he was benched in the 3rd quarter. He finished with 11, padding it in garbage time. Sun Yue, just signed with the Lakers was equally disappointing. The Chinese players, Yao excepted, need to learn to step it up — if they don’t figure it out, or if they can’t — neither Yi or Sun will last long in the NBA.

Lithuania meets Spain in the semi-finals Friday.

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PREVIEWS ….

Basketball Australia’s previewREDEEM THIS. The Boomers are ready, the Aussie’s say.

ESPN’s Chris Sheridan thinks the Boomers have a prayer. But since you’re here, you should read my preview:

TEAM USA vs. AUSTRALIA:  Of course it’s not really Buck vs. Buck, guard Michael Redd vs. center Andrew Bogut. Redd, the USA shooting “specialist” who has shot poorly through five Olympic games, has seen his role diminished. Bogut, Australia’s best player and the best center in the Olympic tournament not named Dwight Howard or Yao Ming, is the focal point of his team’s half court offense and the anchor of the Boomer’s defense.

Believe it or not, BOGUT has sunk more three-pointers than Redd so far in the Olympics. Bogut’s 5/7 from behind the arc; Redd is 4/16. Unfortunately, Team USA’s  “designated shooter” is 8/28  (28.4%) from the floor, averaging 4.2 ppg in 11.5 mins per game. He has not adjusted well to his spot-shooting role, or to coming off the bench, period. The silver lining for Redd is that the team hasn’t needed his shooting.  


Bogut is the Buck who’s been on a roll and so is his team, closing out group play with three straight wins. Bogut averaged 18.3 ppg in just under 21 mins per game in those wins. After two miserable games vs. Croatia and Argentina, he has dominated, overpowering Iran, Russia and Lithuania, playing with a fierce attitude that has carried the Boomers into the medal round. Bogut’s the key for Australia, though, to be honest the only the way Australia might win this game is if the Aussies bribe a rikshaw driver and Lebron James and Dwyane Wade get conveniently lost on the way to the arena. And even then, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and Redd would have to shoot horribly — which they’ve all done in these Olympics.

But the Aussies do have the ability to make this game interesting, and here’s the how and why:



  1. The Boomers are a physical, aggressive team that can play 40 minutes of D and stay with the Team Redeem. USA players have attested to this.

  2. But Aussie Coach Brian Goorjian has to play the best Australia players. It’s seems stupid to have to make such a basic observation in the Olympics, but Goorjian’s rotations were terrible in the two opening losses.

  3. Taking care of the ball vs. Team Redeem’s high-pressure D is huge. (Spain turned the ball over 28 times vs. Team USA on Saturday.) Australia has two excellent capable guards, C.J. Bruton and Patty Mills.

  4. Australia has to shoot well. Bogut has to get some offense going inside vs. Dwight Howard (something he’s had a difficult time doing when the Bucks have played the Magic  – the gamelogs on basketball-reference.com bear this out); Bruton, the shooter, needs a good game. Six-foot-11 David Anderson led the Euroleague in three point shooting % for CSKV Moscow last season. Anderson’s a guy to watch coming off the bench.

KEY # 1 – Team Redeem and the Aussies have played once in China, Aug. 5 in a tuneup game in Shanghai. To hear Team USA’s captain, Jason Kidd, and reserve forward Tayshaun Prince tell it, the Australians gave Team Redeem perhaps their toughest test in China. The USA won 87-76, the only time a team has been able to stay with Team Redeem for 40 minutes. That’s a big key, said Pistons all-star Prince the weekend the games began:

“I think out of all those teams that we played Australia was the team that had the complete package. They had shooters, they had agressive drivers, big guys who can shoot outside, great ball-handlers who can shoot and drive. All the other teams we played they had shooters but not drivers or drivers but not shooters. With Australia, everybody was able to do something and I think that’s why they were able to stick around throughout the game.”


Kidd echoed Prince’s assessment of the Aussies:

“They were very physical and they played well without Bogut. The big thing about them is that they are physical and they play hard for 40 minutes and they are well coached so they will make a lot of noise (in the tournament).”


KEY #2 – I watched the entire Aug. 5 game on Youtube last night (unfortunately, ESPN has put the kibosh on those videos) and came away generally impressed with the versatility of Australia’s big men, Matt Nielson, David Anderson and Chris Antsey; the play of smart, talented guards C.J. Bruton and Patty Mills; and 6′ 6″ small forward-guard Brad Newley, a 2nd round pick of the Houston Rockets in the 2007 draft. (Newley and Mills should have draftexpress profiles.)

BUT (and as you can see, it’s a BIG BUT) Andrew Bogut, nursing a rolled ankle, did not play; and Team USA played a sloppy, unenergetic game, nothing at all like the the end-of-the-world intensity that Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant and Chris Bosh have laid on their Olympic opponents.

ALSO (and this is big, too), a few Aussie players don’t belong the court with Team Redeem, or Croatia for that matter. David Barlow, who starts at guard then usually goes to the bench as Mills takes over; reserve guard Mark Worthington; and veteran Glen Saville. In the Aussie’s Olympic-saving win vs. Russia, all three of those players along with veteran Antsey — Bogut’s backup — saw limited action.  Bogut, Bruton, Mills and Newley played a combined 115 minutes against Russia.  It’s no coincidence that the Aussies won playing their best players big minutes. The three big men, Nielson, Anderson and Antsey split 45-50 mins, leaving about 35-40 minutes for the scrubs. Aussie coach Goorgian needs to tighten the rotation up even more against Team Redeem.


KEY # 3 – The Australia guards, in particular, impressed Team USA and guard Dwyane Wade, who’s been one of the players of the Olympics, along with Spurs All-NBA guard Manu Ginobili, leader of defending gold medalists Argentina, and Lebron James:

“[Patty Mills] did great — both of their point guards were good. One was shooting [Bruton] and one was extremely fast [Mills].”


Tayshaun Prince declared the 20-year-old Mills an NBA prospect:

“He is so fast, he is able to stop and go and is very talented. When you’re that fast and can get to the basket you are going be a player (in the NBA).”


The veteran, C.J. Bruton, age 33, is the starting point guard. Bruton’s of American descent, his father having been an imported baller in the Australian leagues. Bruton played some community college ball in the U.S in the early-mid 1990’s but never played Division 1 because the NCAA yanked his eligibility, ruling that he had played professionally in Australia as a teenager. Patty Mills just turned 20 and is entering his sophomore year at St. Mary’s College (Calif.), which plays in the Western conference with the likes of Loyola Marymount and Gonzaga. Mills NBA stock is rising fast.

“If he continues to keep working hard he definitely has a future in the NBA,”  Kidd concurred.


Key #4 – Australia shooting well starts with getting Bogut going early against Dwight Howard. Bruton is the key early, working inside out with Bogut.  Accomplishing this, however, is no easy task. Bogut usually has difficulty getting shots off against All-NBA, All-Defensive center Howard. This game will be a short chapter, perhaps even a footnote, in what should be a long Howard vs. Bogut rivalry. Hopefully, it’ll be a good one …  David Anderson is a great asset off the bench for Australia, and a deadly 3-point shooter. Here’s more, reposted from a few days ago:

Australia’s David Anderson is is now a teammate of Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova’s on AXA FC Barcelona. A roving big forward on Australia, Anderson has played center for CSKA Moscow since 2004, winning two Euroleague championships and leading the Euroleague in 3-point shooting % last season (54.2%). Hoopshype describes him as “one of the top big men left in Europe. Great talent and size.”  FC Barcelona signed free agent Anderson to a three-year deal in June.

Anderson’s a guy Australia needs to find more playing time for. He splits time with Matt Nielson, the team captain, also a versatile 6′ 11″ player, adept at drawing fouls and getting to the line. A good shooting game by Anderson off the bench should prevent scoring droughts from Australia and could keep them hanging around until the 4th quarter. 

Bottom line, however, is that almost everyone in an Australia uniform needs to have a decent shooting game for the Boomers to have a chance. If Bruton is off, it’s over. Team Redeem will miss shots. USA Basketball didn’t take enough shooters to China, and the one it did take as its “specialist” – Michael Redd – can’t find his shot and appears to have difficulty coming off the bench and playing off the ball. Take care of the ball and shoot well, and the Boomers of Australia may find themselves in this game. Shoot better and catch a break or two, and a miracle on the hardwood just might not be so farfetched. …

Footnote: Aren’t you glad all this crap wasn’t up all day yesterday?  I still find it amazing that the coach again let Bogut sit and watch while the team floundered. Apparently, Australia has been a team that came to the 2008 Olympics very much in transition. For some players Beijing was a last hurrah; for others, namely Bogut, Newley and Mills, Beijing was their Olympics to step to the forefront. Unfortunately, and due to whatever circumstances and loyalties, this transition was poorly coached and managed.


Olympic Weekend: Bogut powers Australia into medal round matchup vs.Team Redeem… Yi delivers China… Jason Kidd laments shooting incident

Continuing doggedly on my mission to spark some interest in Olympic basketball while the Brewers go yard for the playoffs and the Packers embark into the post-Favre era, take a look at what Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut was doing Friday night halfway around the world in Beijing, China.




That fiercely emphatic dunk on Andrei Vorontsevich were points 10 and 11 of a 14-7 Australia Boomer run to begin the 4th quarter of a do-or-die medal round qualifying game against 2007 Eurobasket champs Russia, hammering the Aussies home to an 80-62 lead. The.Australia run effectively buried Russia, though forward Viktor Khryapa (Chicago Bulls) made it interesting with a barrage of three-pointers after the Aussies had pushed the lead to 21. The final was a convincing 95-80, with Bogut throwing in a three-pointer with 30 seconds left to spite the equally chippy Russians. Bogut finished with 22 pts, 8 rebs. Aussie point guard C.J. Bruton scorched the nets for 22 of his own and handed out 6 asts.

Their reward? The Group A #4 seed and a an almost certain quarterfinal matchup against Team USA, which on Saturday made perhaps the strongest statement USA basketball has uttered since the Jordan-Magic-Bird Dream Team — a 119-82 blowout of 2006 world champion Spain. Team Redeem clinched the Group B #1 seed and meets the Boomers Wednesday. (Standings and latest scores). Both teams played meaningless 5th games, with Australia waltzing Sunday night 106-75 over injury-conscious Group A top seed Lithuania and Team USA this morning destroying Dirk Nowitzki and Germany 106-57.

Until Friday night, the 23-year-old Bucks center’s Olympics had been disappointing and frustrating. As Australia crumbled against Croatia and Argentina, Bogut scarcely resembled the aggressive post player Bucks fans saw most of last season. Worse still was that he wasn’t playing very much and was the focus of debate about the team’s failures. Aussie coach Brian Goorjian rose to make an impassioned defense of Bogut Thursday but along the way revealed that he, as coach, was de-emphasizing his star player — on purpose. The coach apparently believed that some of the lesser Aussie players would be responsible for delivering wins and Australia’s first-ever basketball medal.

In the Russia postgame, Goorjian again told reporters that he still didn’t think the team should rely on Bogut to carry them. The coach is in obvious denial about his team. (I’d love to hear an opinion from Yao Ming’s China coach about Goorjian’s attitude toward his center).

Against Russia, however, Goorjian finally did what basketball coaches do: he played his best players and finally seemed to settle on a rotation, riding Bogut and the timely shooting of Bruton to victory. Bogut logged 28 minutes and was strong from start to finish (including a “we mean business” unsportsmanlike foul on Utah Jazz/Russia star Andrei Kirilenko to open the 2nd half). Less than 48 hours after the coach had said Bogut could not be expected to carry the team, Bogut carried the team. That’s what star players do. Unfortunately for Australia, Goorjian spent the first three games of the Olympics foolishly trying to prove otherwise.

For more about Goorjian’s curious handling of Bogut in Beijiing, I made live game notes during the Australia-Russia game and have moved those to the bottom of this, the BBJ mothership weekend Olympics post.

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D-Wade reverses on Pau Gasol - FIBATeam USA 119, Spain 82  Boxscore.  What to say about Team Redeem that hasn’t already been said?  The Team USA defense is the dominant force in this Olympic basketball tournament. Pau Gasol (Lakers), Jose Calderon (Raptors) and their world champion Spanish team were no match. Lebron James and Dwyane Wade seem to have found a higher gear of intensity that may not have existed until now. The two stars are playing with what looks like controlled fury. I don’t think either one of them cracked a grin the entire first half, as they again led the team.

*Jason Kidd shocked the world by taking and making a shot, joking after the game that he had ruined his Olympics. “My man gave me the ball and I had to take the layup – even though I didn’t want to,” Kidd said. The shot came at the 6:56 mark of the 3rd Quarter with Lebron James leading a fast break. Kidd dutifully filled the left lane just like in practice drills and Lebron found him with a pass too close to the basket for Kidd to do anythng but plant his right foot and go up for the left-handed layin — which, by the way, was textbook. Obviously feeling sheepish after the game, he snuck out of the arena like Mike Tyson the night Buster Douglas knocked him out.

*After hitting nothing but rim the first three games, Denver’s Carmelo Anthony found his jumpshot, scoring 16 pts on 6-8 shooting, 4 of 6 from behind the arc. Anthony and the Pistons’ Tayshaun Prince (Pistons) were partly responsible for the extra gaudy margin of victory, shooting a combined 7/10 from downtown, while the rest of the team shot a merely human 5/15. Bucks guard Michael Redd missed his lone three-point attempt.


* Team Redeem stole the ball 16 times, led by Chris Paul‘s 5 steals (also 14 pts).  Spain turned the ball over a whopping 28 times, a rate of one turnover every 85.7 seconds.

* Lebron James led with 8 asts (and 18pts). Lebron leads the Olympics in assists through 4 games with 22 (5.5 avg).

* Pau Gasol played 33 minutes but was held check, with just 13 points on 5-8 shooting. His 7-foot-tall, 270-lb brother Marc played some solid stretches, with 8 pts, 3 rebs in 18 mins before fouling out. Marc Gasol has a good-looking mid-range shot and mixed it up against the US, getting to the line six times. Looks like the Grizzlies have a player.

* Redd played 12 minutes in the second half, scoring 4 pts on 2-4 shooting (0-1 from downtown). He did not play in the first half, but didn’t try to force any offense during his stint in the 2nd. With all the frenetic defense and fast-paced transition the Redeem Teamers play, they haven’t had much of a role for him.


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Yao and Yi celebrate win v. Germany - FIBAYi hits crucial final minute shot, China advances 59-55 over Germany:  Much like his former teammate, Bogut, Nets forward Yi Jianlian rose from goat to hero status in his fourth Beijing game, swishing an 18-footer with 28 seconds to go to put China up 58-55. Yi wasn’t done. He then sealed the win on the defensive end, harassing Mavs All-Pro Dirk Nowitzki into a missed three and a turnover. Yi finished with 9 pts, 11 rbs in his best game of the Olympics while also guarding Nowitzki most of the night. Dirk scored 24 and hauled down 17 rebs, but shot only 7-20 from the field, capping the night with that horrific final 28 seconds. Somewhere in New Jersey, a GM is breathing a little easier.

Yao Ming carried China with 25 pts, 11 rebs. China made the medal round for the second Olympics in a row, and closesd against Greece Monday. It could get goofy. The loser plays Lithuania, a preferable matchup to the one the winner gets: Spurs All-NBA guard Manu Ginobili and Argentina, the defending gold medalists. (Unfortunately, it didn’t get goofy – Yao just didn’t play most of it. He scored 16 pts in 18 mins as Greece “won” the #3 seed 91-77.)

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Bogut with game face vs. Lith - FIBAAustralia 106, Lithuania 75  – With Lithuania undefeated and Croatia securing the #3 seed with a blowout of Group A patsy Iran earlier Sunday night, this game was meaningless. Australia started quickly with Bogut scoring 9 points in the first 2:20 seconds and only briefly looked back – when Bogut went to the bench for seven minutes in the first half. That stretch was the last time Lithuania pulled to within single digits. Bogut led all scorers with 23 pts on 10-12 shooting in just 16 mins. The Aussie D forced 25 turnovers, a good workout with Team USA next.

The boxscore and game lines say Bogut shot 3-3 from 3-point land, but there must be some mistake. A criticism of Bogut in the NBA is that the midrange jumper he had in college has disappeared, but what’s this? Was it a long-range jumper all along? With 3 threes last night and 2 against Russia, he now has more 3-pointers in Beijing than Michael Redd, Team Redeem’s three-point specialist. Perhaps Bogut’s trying to send a message to Scott Skiles? The message is probably for Aussie coach Goorjian. “Keep me in the game” would be appropriate.

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German basketballer Sven SchultzeUSA 106, Germany 57 – Team Redeem jumped out to a 20-3 lead and the rout was on. Carmelo Anthony opened the scoring with a jumper, which isn’t so unusual, but when Jason Kidd hit a three-pointer and Dwight Howard made a free throw in the early minutes, Germany should have packed it in and headed for the Olympic Village.

Proving that, yes, Orlando Magic center Howard has been somewhat bored against the likes of Greece and Angola, Team Redeem’s only center woke up against Germany’s NBA big men Dirk Nowitzki and LA Clippers center Chris Kaman. Howard led all scorers with 22 pts, 10 rebs and 5 missed free throws. Kaman answered with 6 pts and 4 rebs in 17 mins, hardly worth the special German work visa that has allowed him to play for his great grandparents deutschland in the Olympics. … Kaman committed 3 turnovers in less than a minute spanning the end of the 1st quarter, first few ticks of the 2nd quarter – which is difficult to do. This is one of the reasons, 2006 playoffs also among them, that Kaman did not make the Bob Boozer Jinx Top Ten (or 13) NBA Centers’ List.

Lebron and Kobe were a combined 7-10 from 3-point land, which should probably be against the rules of fair play. The rest of the team shot just 4-16 on threes, including 0-4 from Michael Redd. On the game, Redd played nearly 13 minutes, mostly in the second half, and shot 1-9 from the floor, finishing with 2 pts, 1 reb, 1 steal and 1 turnover. … Germany has a 6′ 9″, 247-lb forward named Sven Schultze who looks precisely like Sven Schultze.

WEDNESDAY’S QUARTERFINALS

1-USA (5-0) vs. 4-Australia (3-2) – 7AM

2-Spain (4-1) vs. 3-Croatia (3 – 1:30AM

3-Greece (3-2) vs. 2-Argentina (3-1) – 9:15AM

4-China (2-3) vs. 1-Lithuania (4-1) – 3:45AM

All times are CST. NBC’s basketball channel will have all the games, and USA Network will begin broadcasting at 5:30 AM. NBC’s network daytime broadcast starts at 10AM and they may have at least a portion of the game, one would hope, especially if it’s a good game. The Olympics network won’t really stick with its plans to show men’s beach volleyball, will they? …

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Bogut dunks on Andrey VorontsevichAUSTRALIA – RUSSIA GAME NOTES:

We have our answer r.e. the hubris of the Aussie coach Brian Goorjian. He’s apparently come to his senses (maybe Goorjian read the Bob Boozer jinx today). Bogut dominated Russia in the first half, starting and finishing strong, scoring 12 points and grabbing four rebounds. The Aussies lead at half, 49-33. They’ve led throughout, pushing it to 16 on some hot shooting by David Anderson at the end of the 1st quarter, early 2nd. Bogut was on the bench during that run, but returned when Russia cut it to 11. Five straight points in the post by Bogut extended the lead back to 14, and he muscled in the final two points of the half for a 16 point lead. Bogut played 15 mins in the half.

Unless there’s foul trouble, Bogut should get one break per 20 minute half, and clock at minimum 32 minutes a game. I’d play him 35. Bogut’s the one advantage the Aussies have over most teams in these Olympics – every team except China and Team USA. He should be on the court 80% of the time. It was asinine for Goorjian to try to prove otherwise or play it any other way.

Bogut’s 4/5 from the line, which would be a nice trend. He’s a 59% free throw shooter in the NBA, as bad as Dwight Howard. Russian center Aleksei Savraskeno had a good first half, and so did the Bulls’ Viktor Khryapa. Khrypa’s got 9 pts, 4 rebs at half; Savrasenko 12 pts, 10 in the first quarter until Australia fed Bogut and forced the 7′ 1″ center to the bench with fouls.

Other than the big men, the Russians are having problems. The point guard from Pittsburgh, John-Robert Holden (a guy with a pretty interesting story) shoots a lot but he’s not hitting. Neither is.Kirilenko.

The speedsert Patty Mills isn’t playing well for Aus but the other point guard, CJ Bruton is. He’s hit a couple of threes and has 8. Forwards David Anderson and Matt Nielson are also playing well. I don’t understand why the Aussies stick with center Chris Antsey. He’s a veteran, age 33, an Aussie basketball league MVP, etc.  But he does next to nothing on the court … Bogut, Anderson and Nielson are all 6′ 11″ plus. Maybe this is at the heart of the Aus problem. It’s time NOW to transition to the younger guys, not in two years.  Whether Goorjian wants to admit it or not, the games are here, and they count. Having your opponents drill home the need for transition in the middle of the Olympic games has looked awful and pathetic …and confused the players about their roles.  Antsey’s only played five minutes this game, probably 2 too many. He’s backing up Bogut.

3RD QUARTER

Bogut starts the half by hammering Kirilenko – “unsportsmanlike” foul. Good idea to keep Kirilenko from getting his game together. This sets off a 9-0 run by Russia, though, cutting the lead to seven points before Nielson finally scores to stop it. Bogut then pushes the lead back to ten with, believe it or not, a three-pointer!!   What is he doing out there? He’s 1-2 from behind the arc for the game.

Ugly play – Khryapa blocks Bogut’s shot about five minutes in. Bruton hits a three. He’s got 11 now. Anderson’s got 11 but he’s in foul trouble (again) with three. So is Nielson (again). We’re at the point in the game where the refs may give the Russians a shot at getting back in the game. Bogut has Savrasenko in foul trouble.

61-48 – Bogut goes to the bench six minutes into the quarter, replaced by Antsey. Too short a run for Bogut. Antsey turns the ball over. Rus center Savrasenko comes in to try and take advantage of Bogut’s absence.

Russians can’t hit – Holden’s missed two threes and turned it over twice. …Antsey hits a three as I was writing about him. … 65-49 ..  

Kirilenko’s still stuck on that one shot he hit. Russians finally hit a three, but it isn’t Holden or Kirilenko…. It was Vorontsevich, Andrei. They’ve fired quite a few in an effort to close the gap. Kirilenko misses another one. …

69-55. Holden and Kirilenko have hardly rested at all. The Australia D has been very good for the first time in the Olympics, and Holden and Kirilenko are shooting terribly, accounting for Australia’s big lead.

4TH QUARTER

Bogut and CJ Bruton back in to start the quarter. Bruton opens with a three to push the lead to 17 – 72-55. Bruton has four threes in the game. Bogut had a quiet 3rd (just the three pointer) but the Aussies are going back to him now in the 4th. He missed his first two shots but hit the third.. Bruton misses, Bogut grabs the offensive board – Mills hits.. 78-62.  Kirilenko goes to the bench, leaving Holden, Khryapa and Savrasenko.  Australia’s playing their best lineup: Bogut, Bruton, Mills, Newley and Nielson … Russia can’t score.

and 1THE DUNK: Bogut wheels in from the arc and throws down an Olympic sized jam over the defender (Vorontsevich again). And the foul!  He’s got 19. 80-62 … What a statement!   Russia gets Kirilenko back in the game w/ two others. Savrasenko’s out. Bogut misses the free throw. Next Aussie possession, Sergei Montya hacks Bruton –  an unsportsmanlike, followed by a scrap with Nielson retaliating. Bogut steps into it too. The Russians are losing it. Bruton makes the free throws – 82-62. Three minutes into the quarter and the Aussies have outscored Russia 13-7. This is probably the game.

Bogut to the bench, Antsey in. Huh? It’s not over yet. The game’s getting chippy, but wouldn’t that be reason to leave him in? Aussies aren’t supposed to duck a potential broken nose. Maybe his arm’s numb from the dunk?

Khryapa hasn’t been a factor in the second half. He’s rebounding, but he hasn’t hit a bucket. Russia finally gets a hoop with 4 minutes left to make it 83-64. 14-7 for the Aussies in the first six mins of the 4th. Inside out game with Bogut, Bruton and Mills. Until that last hoop, nearly a three minute scorelss drought for the Russians – it killed them. 

Holden hits a three w/ 2:40 left, cutting it to 12. Bogut’s still on the bench. Russians are on a 9-0 run. Goorjian puts Bogut back in after a Mills turnover.

Khryapa hits a three. Then another. It’s too late. Bruton and Nielson are hitting their free throws. Should be game barring some craziness.  Rus could always employ the hack-a-bogut defense here. 

.. BOGUT JUST HIT A THREE for the helluvit, as if the dunk wasn’t enough … Bruton sews it up with two free throws – he and Bogut finish with 22. 

FINAL: Australia 95, Russia 80. Boxscore.  

Bogut finishes with 22 pts, 8 rebs, 2 asts in 28 mins.  Bruton also had 22 (4-8 on threes) and 6 asts. Viktor Khryapa led Russia with 21 pts, 9 rebs, on the strength of his three-pointer barrage in the last four mins of the game. Kirilenko was held to 6 pts on 1-10 shooting. Holden from Pittsburgh had 20 pts but shot 20 times to get it.  Savrasenko had 16 in 19 mins but was invisible in the 2nd half due to foul trouble. I’d call that a win for Bogut (and Antsey), who neutralized the Russian big man.

Bogut’s 28 mins were easily the most he’s played in Beijing. That’s still not enough PT in a 40 minute game, especially with full two-minute rests at the quarters (NBA breaks are 90 secs.) Realistically, if he’s given breathers around those breaks, Bogut should play 32-33 minutes or more in a contested game. In this game, Bogut sat for 1/3 of the game until he reentered in the 4th after Khyrapa started hitting threes. Goorjian never should have taken him out of the game in the 4th. Is the coach obligated to find minutes for Antsey?

All that talk from Goorjian before the game about Bogut being “the future” of Aussie basketball, about other players defining the team’s success … I think Goorjian finally had little choice but to acknowledge that Bogut is the present of Australia basketball and that the Aussies needed to win a game NOW or go home. The team needed a big game out of Bogut and he delivered. It was the first time a big game had been asked of him, which probably explains why the Aussies are looking at a quarterfinal game against Team USA instead of Spain or Greece.

A difficult Olympics for Bogut: Goorjian seemed to use Bogut’s ankle injury (he rolled it July 31 against Angola) as an excuse to deemphasize Australia’s celebrity, $72-million-dollar contract, NBA “star” — who joined training late — and then try to make the unrealistic statemet that the team should be bigger than its best player. The Australia Boomers aren’t like the 2007-08 Bucks where it became very debatable as the season wore on who the best player was. Bogut is the man for Australia, and the reality is that Australia was only going as far as Bogut could take them.  Perhaps Goorjian threw in the towel against Croatia and Argentina. Or maybe it was simply about playing Chris Antsey. Whatever the case, and it was probably a combination of all three, the coach foolishly rejected his star player until it was too late to salvage Australia’s medal hopes.


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An interesting pose ….

Maria Stepanova and Lauren Jackson - couriermail photo

That’s Russia’s Maria Stepanova boxing out Australia’s Lauren Jackson. Australia won the game.

Apparently, things got rough out there ….

Maria Stepanova's arm vs. Penny Taylor

BLAMING BOGUT: Aussie fans target center, but Aussie coach has intentionally diminished Bogut’s role

Bogut dunks on IranAussie fans have watched their men’s basketball team flounder in the Beijing Olympics, and have resorted to bashing their star, Andrew Bogut. The Bucks center is, after all, the only NBA player on the team, and the only #1 overall pick of an NBA draft. He should have done something to prevent those embarassing losses to Croatia and Argentina, right? What a bum!  He’s going soft playing in the pampered American millionaires league. And why isn’t “the 72-million-dollar man” playing more than 17 minutes in a game?

Not so fast said Aussie coach, Brian Goorjian Thursday after the Aussie’s blew out the also-ran Iran team 101-68. Back off Bogut bashers – the coach claims to be playing it this way by design:

“Yao Ming cannot carry China on his back. What Bogut does in my environment has been my decision and how Bogut is used and was used today has been my decision. If it doesn’t go well, I think you should look at the coach because if the country is not happy with the way Andrew Bogut is playing, I’ve gone along the same game plan since I’ve had the team.

“I’ve said that our success is based on how Brad Newley, (David) Barlow, how Patty Mills, how Joe Ingles, how those guys play. I don’t think you can have a guy with you for a week and play two games and come into a tournament and have the whole country go ‘hey this boy is suppose to carry it’.”


Did the coach just call Bogut “boy”?

If you don’t quite understand Goorjian’s logic, that’s OK. What do you say about a coach who changes nothing when his country’s best player — a bonafide NBA center no less — joins the team?  Much of what Goorjian said isn’t even true, which may go a long way toward explaining why the Aussies are effectively facing elimination. Yao Ming, for one, is in fact attempting to carry China on his back. That’s the job of a team’s best player. When Argentina struggled earlier this week, who did the team look to? – Manu Ginobili, who put the team on his back and set Argentina back on track. 

Bogut, however, hasn’t been himself in Beijing. Here’s his line in the Olympics so far:

* vs Croatia (lost 97-82): 21 minutes; 10 points; 1 rebound; 2 assists; 4 turnovers.
* vs Argentina (lost 85-68): 24 minutes; 7 points; 4 rebounds; 2 assists; 2 turnovers.
* vs Iran (won 106-68): 17 minutes; 10 points; 7 rebounds; no assists; 1 turnover.

Goorjian, if the coach can be believed, has admittedly not allowed Bogut to be himself. Can you imagine Yao Ming (who says he’s playing at only 60-70% full strength) sitting on the bench while his team played like drunken bar leaguers, falling behind by 20? No. But that’s what Goorjian did with Bogut in the Olympic opener vs. Croatia. Bogut didn’t start the 2nd half!!! Barring another broken nose in the first minute, can Milwaukee Bucks fans imagine a circumstance in which Bogut would grab ONE REBOUND in a game?  Somehow, coach Goorjian found it against Croatia.

“The boy” Bogut’s been on the team a month now (not a week, coach) and has accepted the subordinate role Goorjian has given him … and watched his teammates crumble. He hasn’t done much to help, but then it’s difficult to rebound a basketball from the bench, which is where Goorjian apparently prefers to keep his star center. When Bogut did play against Croatia, he looked tentative, at times lost on the court, an innocent bystander watching as his teammates went through the motions trying to find shots and playing pathetic D. It was strange to see, because on the Bucks, Bogut often acts like a coach on the floor, barking out directions, doing his best to lead. He also plays 35 minutes per game in Milwaukee.

(I do recall Bogut playing like this once before — a Sunday noon game last season against Philadelphia in which he didn’t score a basket against Sam Dalembert. The rumor was that he had a hangover. None of the Australia games, however, have been morning games or day games, Beijing time. They’ve had one 8pm game and two late games (10:15pm tipoffs). It shouldn’t matter – aren’t Aussies supposed to be work hard, play hard tough guys?)


The truth is, Goorjian hasn’t stuck to a game plan at all, as he claims. There is no set Aussie rotation; player minutes fluctuate wildly; and Goorjian has changed point guards. Patty Mills, the 20-year-old quicksilver guard who wowed Team USA Aug. 5, is now getting the bulk of minutes over C.J. Bruton, after playing only 18 off the bench vs. Croatia. Ingles and Barlow, two of the guys whom the coach claims “success is based on,” played just 13 and 14 minutes against Iran. No wonder Australia doesn’t look like a team — the coach doesn’t seem to have a clear idea what his team is.

Goorjian’s right about one thing: “If it doesn’t go well you should look at the coach.” The Aussies could use a new coach. Even Bogut’s first NBA coach, Terry Stotts, would be a major improvement.




    • The Aussies are now 1-2 and tied with Russia for 4th place in Group A. The teams square off later tonight (Friday) with the loser likely out of the tournament when group play finishes Monday. The winner should advance to the quarterfinals and a matchup against Team USA (or Spain should the Gasol brothers and Jose Calderon pull off an upset against Team Redeem Saturday).


Brewhoop’s Alex Boeder has been keeping tabs on the Olympic dream, which is nice for us blogger types consumed by the Mo trade. (It occurs to me that the trade should be known as “the Luke trade” in the same way the Yi trade is usually refered to as “the Jefferson trade” or “RJ trade.” I’ll wait for the corporate memo.)  Boeder reports that Dwyane Wade continues to be the best player of the Olympics averaging 18.3 pts per game. There there’s the U.S. defense, which Boeder says stifle any international stereotypes about lazy American defense. The Redeem Team defense has been by far the most dominant factor in the Olympic basketball tournament.




    • The U.S. clamped down on Greece 91-69 Thursday, with Kobe Bryant and Chris Bosh leading the way with 18. D-Wade added 17 and six steals. Greece beat Team USA in 2004 in Athens and came into Beijing with high medal hopes. The Greeks have come down to earth, as Spain handled them easily, too, in the Olympic opener.

    •  

    • Team Redeem meets world champion Spain Saturday in its toughest matchup to date and the marquee game of group play. Spain brings brothers Pau Gasol (Lakers all-star) and Marc Gasol (Grizzlies), Jose Calderon (the Raptors point guard who made T.J. Ford expendable) and Juan Navarro, who played with Memphis last year but is headed back to the Euroleague. Also onboard is wunderkind kid guard Ricky Rubio, who looks and supposedly plays like a mini Pistol Pete Maravich (the Pistol was 6′ 5″). Team USA has shot poorly from the outside, so this could get interesting.



    •  

    • Michael Redd ranks 10th on the team in minutes played, at about 11 per game, Boeder reports. To me Redd hasn’t looked comfortable playing a spot role. Coach Mike Krzyzewksi usually gives Redd his first run in the 2nd quarter and Redd has apparently decided that he needs to get his offense going right away or he’ll be back on the bench. The effect is the opposite. Redd has forced the action, firing up threes and looking for his drive …. with mixed results until he’s quickly pulled back to the bench. Sadly, this has looked familiar to Bucks fans, except for the benching part. Redd struggles mightily with the “let the game come to you” concept.

    •  

    • NBC will carry USA vs. Spain live Saturday morning at 9am CST. Tip-off is at 9:15.


Hoopshype has a clean Olympic “leaders” page with boxscores and schedule. The FIBA site, the NBC site and a few other main hubs, like Interbasket (a Eurobasket site) have a kind of placid Microsoft sheen that I find sort of repulsive. I don’t particularly like being reminded that the Olympics is a Nike and McDonald’s thing, much less Microsoft’s plans to dominate first my laptop then the world.

Australia’s David Anderson is is now a teammate of Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova’s on AXA FC Barcelona. A roving big forward on Australia, Anderson has played center for CSKA Moscow since 2004, winning two Euroleague championships and leading the Euroleague in 3-point shooting % last season (54.2%). Hoopshype describes him as “one of the best centers left in Europe.”  FC Barcelona signed free agent Anderson to a three-year deal in June.

Team USA defensive dunkfest… Croats gun Aussies onto their arses… Killer Lauren Jackson

What ref, no flop?One word: DEFENSE If you’ve been following the Olympic roads of Team USA and Australia and Andrew Bogut, what you witnessed Sunday morning in the teams’ opening games was a stunning contrast in how to play basketball defense and how not to play basketball defense.

Team Redeem, led by Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant and center Dwight Howard, clamped one of the tightest defenses I’ve ever seen in an Olympics on an inspired, yet overmatched, Chinese team and won easily 101-70. The U.S. threw a full court man-to-man at China from the opening tip on, and didn’t let up on or off the ball until the host team buckled about 15 minutes into it. China, led by Yao Ming, some plucky point guard play and good shooting, impressed the estimated 1 billion TV viewers (and the president in the stands) by weathering the U.S. intensity for as as long as they did. It was the most-watched basketball game in world history.

The Australia Boomers and Bucks center Bogut, unfortunately, had come out two hours earlier and slouched up a sagging man-to-man defense against Croatia that was nearly the opposite of Team USA’s relentless D. The Aussies didn’t stop the ball, overhelped on minor penetration and, as a result, left the deadly Croatian shooters wide open on the wings all game long. The Croats whipped the ball around at will and shot an unheard of 67 percent from the floor, hitting 12-16 three pointers and burying the Aussies 97-82 in a game that didn’t seem that close.

Interbasket has the lowdown on all of yesterday’s games including box scores.

Bogut didn’t play well, and looked as though he didn’t know where he was supposed to be on the court. He only shot three times (3-3) and finished with 10 pts and ONE rebound. He shot 4-6 from the line, turned the ball over four times and had two assists. Croat center Kresimer Loncar outplayed him with 10 pts, 10 rebs. To be fair, nobody on Australia played well. They looked like a drunk rec team with a passed out coach, while making the Croats look more like little Larry Birds than a bunch of guys who grew up idolizing Toni Kukoc (not such a bad role model, judging by this game). If the Aussies don’t find some intensity and a better defensive plan, they might as well go home.

Not a good day for Bucks players:  Michael Redd generally enters the game in the 2nd Quarter as part of Team USA’s 3rd or 4th wave. The idea seems to be that once the relentless U.S. defense has worn out the opponent, Redd’s job is to gun them down with threes. Against China Redd fell flat in his first run and was yanked after playing just 2:45. He didn’t score until the rout was well on in in the second half and finished with 9 pts on 3-9 shooting (3-7 from behind the arc). The USA was again led by Dwyane Wade with 19 and Lebron James with 18 pts, 6 rebs, 3 assists — and its defense. The Team Redeem shooters are not shooting well. Kobe shot 1-7 on threes as he, Redd and Carmelo Anthony shot a combined 4-17 behind the arc. C’mon guys, it’s only 20′ 9″ from the basket. Next up is Angola on Tuesday.

Not a good day for a former Buck:  Yi Jianlian couldn’t get a shot to fall in the first half (0-6) and ended his growing frustration with an “unsportsmanlike” foul before being sent to the bench with about three minutes to play in the half. Although his shot was not falling, I didn’t think he was playing poorly. Physically, he was holding his own, and getting himself some good looks against a tough defense. The shots just wouldn’t fall for him until the 2nd half. ESPN’s Chris Sheridan didn’t see it that way, however, and devoted his post game column to Yi looking worse than one of Beijing’s “smog-filled panoramas.” Ouch. Yi finished with 9 pts on 4-13 shooting.

Sheridan added this tidbit from Michael Redd (also yanked in the first half, remember) on Yi and the New Jersey trade:

“You know, what I did see from him in the fourth quarter was resilience. He struggled, but he was still being aggressive. And as a young player you like to see that out of him. He has a lot of growing to do, but he’s going to be terrific,” Michael Redd said afterward of his former Bucks teammate, who he described as a nice, Americanized kid already well-versed in U.S. street lingo.

To which I responded, “Well, you guys got the better of that trade.”


To which Redd quickly responded: “We did, oh we did, we did, we did, we did. We’re happy, no question.” (I played the tape back five times to make sure I had an accurate count of “we dids.”)


And are probably not done, oh not done, not done, not done, not done … Watching Bogut, Yi and Redd start their Olympics on the wrong foot was an unexpected reminder of the 2007-08 Bucks and their woes, oh their woes, their woes, their woes, their woes. I was hoping not to think about those during the Olympics.

Bogut does Ming the merciless impressionBogut ankle injury update:  Bogut moved around fairly well against Croatia, but Aussie media is reporting that their center was slowed by the ankle injury sustained against Angola July 31. This has been a funny injury. Supposedly it swelled the day after the Angola game against Argentina, and was described as a “minor” ankle injury. Four days later, Aussie coach Goorjian was still resting Bogut but saying then that “he rolled it pretty good.”  Bogut may be hurt worse than the team initially let on, in which case the Aussie trainers had no business playing him in the meaningless game against Argentina.

Bogut practiced in the days leading up to Croatia, so I don’t think it’s the ankle that’s bothering him. The Aussies seem to be having problems integrating Bogut into the team mix, and that ankle’s becoming a bit of a crutch for this larger problem. …  Next up for Bogut is Argentina and Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola. Australia built a 19-point lead 3rd quarter lead in the tuneup game Aug. 1 before collapsing in a 95-91 loss.

USA players rave about the Aussies: It’s certainly possible that Croatia was the nightmare matchup for Australia. If Team USA players are any judge of their competition thus far in China, the Aussies chances of winning their first Olympic basketball medal were looking up until Sunday. 

After beating the Aussie’s 87-76 in a friendly game Aug. 5, members of Team Redeem deemed the Aussies tougher than European champ Russia and Lithuania — two of the four teams Australia has upcoming in Group A play. Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince:

“I think out of all those teams that we played Australia was the team that had the complete package. They had shooters, they had agressive drivers, big guys who can shoot outside, great ball-handlers who can shoot and drive. All the other teams we played they had shooters but not drivers or drivers but not shooters. With Australia, everybody was able to do something and I think that’s why they were able to stick around throughout the game.”


Bogut didn’t play in that game, and much of the praise centered on Australia’s 20-year-old guard Patty Mills. The backup point guard, who will be a sophomore at Division 1 St. Mary’s (CA) this fall, impressed with his speed and quickness, and had Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Jason Kidd chasing on D. They declared Mills an NBA prospect. “If he continues to work hard he definitely has a future in the NBA,” Kidd said.

Lauren Jackson's chestWha’ eh? No game foto from our sheela’s romp against Belarus? Just give the blokes Lauren Jackson’s tits!   You gotta love the Aussie approach to media. The world champion Australia Opals “mauled” Belarus 83-64 to open the women’s Olympic tournament late Friday (as reported by FIBA). Aussie basketball’s official website commemorated the strong start by putting its best chest forward, accompanying the game story with the magazine cover-like shot to your left of Jackson’s jersey-wrapped bazoomas. She had 18 in the game. Did I mention this was done on the official Basketball Australia website? 

Give the art director a raise.

Now Jackson’s talking about killing people and broken bones and broken noses. The Aussie and USA women, the favorites to meet in the gold medal game, are having a trash talk war.

Here’s the video (can’t get it embedded).

And here’s what she does when she’s not trashtalking Lisa Leslie:

lauren-jackson

Ten things you should know about Olympic basketball

Bogut mugging Yao last weekOlympic basketball kicks off this weekend, the men’s tournament Sunday morning, Aug. 10. The USA “Redeem Team” and Michael Redd begin Group B play against Yao Ming, Yi Jianlian and China. Andrew Bogut and his Australia Boomers open against Croatia in Group A.

Here’s the game schedule. Click here for NBC’s broadcast schedule. NBC will have a few of the US games live, including Sunday’s opener, but you know how NBC is, jumping in and out of the action. If it’s not on the toob (NBC or USA Network), it can be viewed live online, a great opportunity for American hoops fans to see for ourselves how the rest of the world is doing. It’s creative loafing time.

Team USA with Kobe and Lebron is a heavy favorite to bring the gold home after finishing 3rd in Athens 2004, no matter how cynical the press row has been. But let’s not get cocky. This is arguably the strongest field in Olympic basketball history. Spain, Greece, Argentina, Russia and Lithuania are expected to be in the medal running. Watch out for Bogut and Australia, and Germany. Croatia’s a sleeper. China, Iran and Angola are the also-rans.

That’s the conventional media wisdom, which might be half right. (Count how many times you hear an announcer apply the “arguably best player in the world not in the NBA” tag to different players.) I haven’t seen most of these teams play yet, so prognostications will have to wait. Instead, let’s examine the weirdness that is international basketball with a trusty ten-point Olympic primer.

1) The time shift will take some getting used to: Beijing is on the other side of the world, 13 hours ahead of Milwaukee. Group play begins at 9AM [I’ve corrected this] each morning in China, seen live in Milwaukee at 8PM and continues through the night until about 11AM the next morning — six men’s or women’s games daily Aug. 9-18. All of the U.S. men’s games, however, are prime time and night cap games in China, which means 7AM and 9:15AM tip-offs here for Team Redeem (can we come up with a better nickname?). Hoops with early ayem coffee instead of beer, plenty of time to get caught up with work in the afternoon.

Here’s NBC’s basketball broadcast schedule again, online games included. Bogut’s first game Sunday 7AM vs. Croatia can be viewed online. USA-China tips off Sunday at 9:15AM, live on NBC.


Dirk will lead Germany2) The Olympic tournament features 12 teams divided into two groups of six, A and B. After a five-game round-robin within the groups, four teams from each advance to the quarter finals Aug. 20, where the stakes are do or die, one game elimination. The team finishing 1st in its group plays the 4th place team from the other group; the 2nd place team plays the 3rd place team from the other group and so on. For example, If Australia and Bogut finish 4th in Group A, the Aussies would likely play Group B U.S. in the quarterfinals and be sent Down Under without a medal — although it would be a good game if the refs let the rough stuff go, which they won’t (see #10). The semifinals are Aug. 22, the medal games cap the Olympics Sunday, Aug. 24.

GROUP A: Argentina (full line-up of NBA experience led by the Suprs All-NBA guard Manu Ginobili, and forwards Luis Scola of the Rockets and the Bulls’ Andres Nocioni), Australia (Bogut), Russia (Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko), Lithuania (no Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas this time), Croatia and Iran.

GROUP B: Spain (Lakers all-star Pau Gasol and brother Marc of the Grizzlies; shooting guard Juan Carlos Navarro, Wizards draftee), Germany (Mavs All-NBAer Dirk Nowitzki, Clippers center Chris Kaman), Greece (a few guys who didn’t stick in the NBA), China (Yao and Yi), Angola and Team USA.

3) No matter how much it appears to be smaller, the international (FIBA) ball is, in fact, the same size as the NBA ball (size 7, 22 inches diameter). It is not, however, the same ball. The NBA ball – “the one ball” – is a Spalding. The international ball can be made by any manufacturer that pays the licensing fees and certifies the rigorously zany process that the offical FIBA ball must undergo, including refrigeration and other laboratory processes, and a goofy paint job.


The Manu Ginobili factor4) The international three-point line looks to be about the same as the college three-point line but is 9.1 inches further out at 20′ 6.1″ (6.25 meters) from the hoop. The NBA arc is three feet-plus further out (23′ 9″ – except at the baseline where the line tapers to 22 feet). There was really no excuse for the U.S. shooting 3-18 behind the arc the other day in its tuneup game against the Aussies — though the reason may be that NBA players don’t shoot as well as players a generation ago. In 2010, FIBA will move its arc back about a foot-and-a-half. Apparently, the rest of the world still thinks the NBA three line is too far away from the hole.

5) The lane, that trapezoidal lane, wider near the hoop. It looks just as weird as it always has, and there’s no good reason for it. What’s the purpose? To keep big men away from the basket and make post play more difficult, of course, and to equalize height advantage. That’s not a good reason. I’ve also suspected the trapezoid was designed “just to be different” from the American game, less squarish and not unlike the goofy paint job on the ball. But not for long. The trapezoids will be peeled off the world’s hardwood in 2010 as FIBA has come to its senses and will paint the standard American lane, which you already know if you hit the link in #3.


Redd from three - 20076) Zone defense is allowed, anything goes, no defensive three seconds for guarding no one. A team can clog the lane all it wants on D, which gets back to the questions in #4 about the trapezoidal weirdness. The zones will impact Team Redeem. NBA players are used to clear-out, one-on-one basketball and post offense against man-to-man D, and generally run two root plays — pick-and-roll and give-and-go. The off-the-ball cuts that free shooters against zones are not ingrained in their offensive styles, and Lebron and Kobe never played a second of college ball where zones are allowed. Neither did center Dwight Howard. If anything is the premium in international ball, it’s zone-beating outside shooting. Many teams (Spain, Argentina, Lithuania, Greece) are stacked with great shooters, while Team USA came to China with one fewer than it probably should have. The Olympics would be a bad time for Michael Redd to start forcing offense and fall into one of his bad streaks, those slumps that for the Milwaukee Bucks have often come at the worst possible times.

7) The court is 2′ 2″ shorter and nearly a foot narrower at an even 28 meters by 15 meters, something that only the great, idiosyncratic shooters of the era, Ray Allen and Reggie Miller, probably ever paid any attention to. The three point line is already much shorter, so trimming five inches left and right along the baseline is negligible for most players. I do foresee Redd finding his heels on the out-of-bounds line a time or two if he’s running the baseline and setting up for corner threes.


Kobe and Lebron resting Tuesday vs. Australia8) Forty minute games just like in college, 5 fouls to foul out. Unlike college, however, there are four periods, with a two-minute break at the end of the first and third quarters (the NBA break is only 90 seconds). Much like the trapezoidal lane, there seems no good reason that this should be different from both the NBA and NCAA, other than being different for the sake of being different. This one, though, heavily favors NBA stars used to playing a grueling 36-40 minutes a game. Imagine the never-tiring Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul.

9) Fewer timeouts. In the NBA, teams get six plus a 20-second timeout. In FIBA ball, it’s one time out per period until the 4th quarter, when teams get two — five altogether plus the longer quarter breaks. No 20-second timeout. This shouldn’t matter, right?  Watch various Redeem Team players try to save possession by calling 20-second timeouts when falling out of bounds or scrambling for the ball. Ahh, it’s the little things in life, good for shits and giggles.


10)  International refs are tehrrr-rrible (that’s Bill Waltonese) a-trohh-shuss even, always a source of frustration worse than college refs and far less respectful of game flow than NBA refs. This, along with the zone D, will cause some trouble for Team Redeem. The refs don’t like tough, physical defense; they don’t do make up calls (one of the most equitably sane things about NBA refs); they don’t let big men play; there are only two of them — not the NBA three; and ref nationalism brings a paranoia factor into the mix (the 1972 travesty vs. the Soviets was only the most blatant refereeing debacle). As much as the Chinese fans love them, much of the rest of basketball world is rooting against the Redeem Team. (Ed. note – FIBA’s decided to go with three refs. Nope, they don’t all have to have a common language.)

In the “friendly” games over the last ten days, the refs made it clear that they’ll be whistle-happy on Australia and its hammerlock defense. Lebron, who plays a similar style under Mike Brown in Cleveland, fouled out of a tuneup game. US center Howard, a Stan Van Gundy player in Orlando, has had a difficult time in general. Carlos Boozer, from the Jerry Sloan school of defense in Utah, has yet to find a role or playing time. In a way it’s a good thing for the U.S. that there are no Celtics, Spurs or 76ers on Team Redeem, and only one Detroit Piston, Tayshaun Prince. Clawing NBA defense is expressly illegal by international refereeing standards. (Mo Williams would love Beijing.)

Also note that many international refs seem to have a man-crush on Argentina’s shooting guard, a phenomenon heretofore known as “the Manu Ginobili factor” (Manoo factor for short).

Links: A comprehensive preview of Team USA from Inside Hoops.  From a Russian basketball junkie, a “general questions about international ball” page at ballineurope.com. Here’s the rules comparison sheet again from USA basketball. 

An official FIBA preview. Dirk Nowitzki (Germany), Manu Ginobili (Argentina), Andrei Kirilenko (Russia), Sarunas Jasikevicius (Lithuania) and Yao Ming for host China were the flagbearers for their countriesin the opening ceremony — a pretty good indication of how important Olympic basketball is around the world. Heavy gravitas for the basketball stars in Beijing.

Draft Express.com has some conventional power rankings that should be read with skepticism. Celtics blogger Green Bandwagon has better insight. Chris Sheridan’s China archive at ESPN is an excellent resource. NBA.com is also on the beat.  I’ll be keeping track of Aussie basketball and Bogut here and here. You won’t have to look hard for the Lauren Jackson photos on those Aussie sites.

Here are those broadcast listings from NBC, one more time.


Let the games begin!

Down Unders give Team USA reality check… Why Bogut didn’t play… Lauren Jackson!

Matt Nielson and Dwight HowardIf ever there was an air of invincibility surrounding Lebron James and Kobe Bryant’s Team USA, the Australia Boomers hacked it away Tuesday in Shanghai, China, in the final pre-Olympic “friendly” game for both teams. Despite a notable lack of energy and poor shooting games from Kobe, Carmelo Anthony and the Bucks’ Michael Redd, the U.S. held on to win 87-76.

Redd played only eight minutes, scored two points and missed all three of his three point attempts. Australia played without Bucks center Andrew Bogut, nursing a rolled ankle, but the Aussies roared out of the second half with a 13-2 run and refused to go away until the final minutes.

I know, I know, I wrote in my last post that Bogut was almost certain to play. I seem to have fallen prey to the old American attitude about Olympic basketball — I just don’t take it as seriously as the rest of the world does. I see it as a fun tournament, a celebration of basketball worldwide played by teams that wouldn’t beat the Boston Celtics. It only matters if or when the U.S. loses. Then the fun stops. 

Tuesday’s game could well have been the only time the U.S. and Australia meet in China (they’re in different groups and Australia is not a medal favorite). So I also figured the Bucks center wouldn’t let a minor injury keep him out of a matchup against All-NBA Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, who’s outplayed Bogut nearly every time they’ve faced each other.

Wrong. Too much NBA thinking. The Aussies, who have never won an Olympic men’s basketball medal, have other ideas. They think the Beijing Olympics are their best shot to date and decided to take a “precautionary” measure in a game that didn’t count by resting Bogut, who rolled his ankle last week against Angola. How do we know this? Aussie coach Brian Goorjian finally — five days after the injury — gave reporters a Bogut update in the postgame interviews (find audio here). Goorjian also guaranteed that Bogut would play Sunday in Australia’s first Olympic game against Croatia:

“He’s had an ankle problem after the Angola game and we played him against Argentina in the first half and it swelled up and was a problem. So he hasn’t trained since then and we set our target for him to come back for the Croatia game. It would have been nice [had he played against the U.S.] because the team has played very little with him but it was too big of a risk on that ankle for him to play. But he will play in game one against Croatia.”


Reporter: Any doubt he’ll play against Croatia? 

“There is no doubt. It was precautionary. It’s swollen and it blew up after [the Argentina game]. We don’t know how it will go after that point but he will definitely play against Croatia.”


Reporter: Was Goorjian worried that it would flare up during the game?

“He rolled it pretty good and it’s a concern. With this team the one positive is we’ve had him very little and, as you saw tonight, we had [big men] David Anderson and Matt Nielson in [foul] trouble — those are really our profile guys — and those younger guys have been playing a lot together before they arrived. We’ve developed a style of play without Andrew that is competitive. If we get Andrew, we feel like we’ve got a chance. We’ve got our fingers crossed, but he will play against Croatia and, hopefully, it will grow from there.”


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Would Bogut have helped the Aussies against the USA?  Somewhat. He would have been tangled up in the paint with Howard, and the trapezoidal lane of international ball doesn’t help either player offensively. But Bogut’s presence might have freed other players for Australia and forced US Coach Mike Krzyzewski to play less smallball. As it was, Lebron got minutes at center against Australia 7-footers Chris Antsey and Anderson, and 6′ 11″ forward Nielson. Toronto forward Chris Bosh spent three-fourths of the game on the bench. Utah’s Carlos Boozer didn’t play at all.

The game was rough and foul-marred, with the teams missing a combined 20 free throws and Kobe and Antsey squaring off in the second quarter — typical stiffarm Australian stuff. The Aussies turned the ball over 18 times but Team USA countered by misfiring jumpers all game long, shooting just 3-18 from behind the arc against Australia’s sagging man-to-man defense. Steals and transition made the difference, as Dwyane Wade led all scorers with 22 points. Lebron had an interesting line: 16 pts, 4 assists and 5 steals in 33 minutes.

From the Australia perspective, the whistles blew on them far too often again — a trend that international refs will probably continue into the Olympics — and they turned the ball over too much, especially in the first half as the U.S. took a 15-point lead into halftime. But the positives far outweighed the negatives: the Aussie shooters shot well, point guard Patty Mills’ quickness off the bench surprised the U.S. guards, and five players scored in double figures, led by Mills and Antsey with 13. Their best player didn’t play, yet they shocked Team USA to start the second half and made it a game. If the Aussies were a sleeper pick for a medal before the game, they may have lost that status.

So Team USA got a bit of a reality check in a game that didn’t count. The “Redeem Team” got lazy against an opponent that can shoot and play defense. There are better shooting teams than Australia in the Olympic games — Spain, Greece and Argentina come to mind. There is no team in the Olympics, however, that D’s it up like Australia does, Detroit Pistons style. It didn’t seem to bother Lebron and D-Wade much but Kobe got caught up in the physical play. And Carmelo?  After a while the Nuggets forward looked liked he’d just as soon be somewhere else, kind of like he did in the playoffs against the Lakers. … If these two teams don’t get a rematch in the Olympics with Bogut on the court, it’d be too bad

USA women top Australia Opals 71-67:  On the women’s side, the USA-Australia dynamic is a bit more intense. They’re the hands-down favorites for a third straight Olympic gold medal matchup, with the edge to the US. It’s the usual star WNBA suspects, some of the best female players ever. Lauren Jackson for the Aussies and Lisa Leslie, Candace Parker and Sue Bird for the U.S. The warmup game yesterday in Haining, China, was a scrapfest until it ended, with Aussie point guard Penny Taylor, another WNBA star, finishing with a black eye on her way to leading all scorers with 19. Leslie led the way for the US with 13.

Definitely a heated rivalry to keep an eye on in these games, if for no other reason than Lauren Jackson.

Yes, the Australian mag cover’s four years old, and it is truly a shame that the photo spread inside cannot be posted here.

Bogut ankle injury update… Team USA downs Russia… Another crazy Bogut-Yao photo

Bogut mugs Yao last WednesdayA minor ankle injury Andrew Bogut suffered last week benched the Aussie center in the second half Friday against Argentina, but he’s sure to play in the Aussie’s next Olympic warm-up Tuesday ayem in Shanghai against Team USA.  Contrary to a report on JSOnline yesterday suggesting that the Bucks center was injured in the Argentina game, Bogut tweaked the ankle during his 32-point, 11 reb rampage against Angola Thursday. Aussie basketball reported that Bogut carried the ankle injury into the Argentina game.

Bogut started and played most of the first half against Argentina but missed most of the second half. With Bogut on the court, the Aussie Boomers built a double digit lead up to 19 early in the 3rd Quarter. Without Bogut in the paint, Argentina big forward Luis Scola (Houston Rockets) went off for 28 second half points as the Aussies couldn’t close, losing 95-91.

Is it possible Bogut could sit out Tuesday’s game against the U.S.? Slightly, but he’s almost certain to play. It is much more possible that Australia and Team USA could never meet in these Olympics (Australia is in Group A, the US is in Group B). The way the Olympic tournament is set up, if the Aussies finish 1st or 3rd in group play, the Boomers would not play the US unless they made the gold medal game (assuming Lebron and Kobe et al win Group B) or if Team USA loses one along the way. The Aussies would be the surprise of the tournament if they did that well, though I think they’re becoming a great sleeper pick for at least a bronze medal.

But that’s looking too far ahead. Tuesday’s game for Bogut is a matchup in the paint against the Orlando Magic’s 1st team All-NBA center Dwight Howard and a chance to play against his Bucks teammate, Michael Redd. Bogut’s a guy that doesn’t like to sit out Bucks games even when his nose has been mashed, much less a test against Howard that he’d run to on one leg. The ankle injury is minor. He’s playing Tuesday.  

Game time Tuesday is 7AM Central Time. ESPN2 has the game live from Shanghai, China. (Shanghai’s 13 hours ahead of Milwaukee). For an internet feed go here to myp2p.eu. You’ll probably need to download the p2p software to make it happen.

This is the last tune-up game for both teams – Olympic basketball starts this Sunday, Aug. 10. Team USA opens Group B play against China; the Aussies in Group A go against Croatia.

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USA defense, Kobe, stop Russia 89-68: Lebron fouled out with just ten points but Kobe Bryant was relentless on D and on the O, leading all scorers with 19 in what ESPN’s Chris Sheridan described as “a defensive struggle.” (Sheridan’s again got the Olympic basketball beat and that’s a good thing – he’s one of ESPN’s better writers). Andrei Kirilenko (Utah Jazz) led Russia with 18. Carmelo Anthony added 17 and D-Wade 16 off the bench for the US.

This game was closer than the final score indicates, as the Russians continually pushed the US lead toward single digits. The Russians had pulled to within 10 in the 3rd quarter, but the Bucks’ Michael Redd drilled two threes and D-Wade got 4 pts to drive the lead back to 20 going into the 4th. Redd, still getting only spot playing time, finished with six points on those two 3-pointers. Redd, however, again missed the ESPN highlight reel:





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Kobe gave himself a new nickname after the Lithuania blowout: The Doberman. This has something to do with defense and Kobe priding himself on being able to shut down the other team’s best player. Apparently that didn’t apply to Ray Allen, who carved Kobe’s Lakers up during the NBA Finals. US coach Mike Krzyzewski locked Detroit’s Tayshaun Prince on Kirilenko in the first half.

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Jason Kidd was benched in the 2nd half in favor of Chris Paul and Deron Williams, and that may be a sign of things to come, Sheridan wrote. Or it could just be Sheridan picking up bad ESPN habits for manufacturing controversy. Obviously, Paul is going to get some minutes with Kobe and the starters and it’s really not a big deal for him to playing instead of Kidd. The bigger controversy is Kidd starting over CP3 to begin with. Most basketball fans around the world haven’t seen the spectacular point guard who finished 2nd in the MVP voting play all that much, and the Olympics are a made-to-order stage for CP3’s arrival. Something tells me, however, that Coach K would like to think he’s immune to these sorts of pressures. We’ll see.

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Another story building seems to be Coach K’s growing frustration with center Dwight Howard. He played Howard just 17 minutes against Russia and singled out forward-center Chris Bosh for praise after the game. Bosh isn’t a center at all, of course, and therein lies Howard’s problem so far in these warm-up games: The US has yet to play a team with a decent center. Howard’s likely bored. But he’ll see Bogut Tuesday and Yao Ming Sunday in Team USA’s first Olympic game. Those two ought to wake him up and give him some company in the paint.

Howard’s also not quite at full strength. He fractured his sternum against the Pistons in the playoffs and Tyson Chandler was named first Olympic alternate in case Howard couldn’t go. But then Chandler missed time due to an inflamed big toe. Bogut has his “minor” ankle injury to deal with; and now Yao, recovering from a stress fracture in his left foot says he’s only “60 to 70 percent“, is out of shape and “feels weak.” Chris Kaman

Chris Kaman shoots a free throw as a member of the German Olympics team.jpgSpain’s Pau Gasol (Lakers) is still recovering from numerous injuries suffered against the Celtics in the NBA Finals, mostly relating to his pride. That leaves Germany’s Chris Kaman (Clippers) as the only healthy “true” NBA center in the Olympics.

Bad hair notwithstanding.

Or doing the new ‘do for Deutschland.

“The clock was on valium”… Ankle injury limits Bogut… USA 3’s bomb Lithuania

Because the Journal Sentinel hasn’t come through with much Andrew Bogut in China coverage, you can always check here (and probably find it) at the Bob Boozer Jinx.

With Bogut used sparingly due to what was described as a minor ankle injury, his Australia Boomers blew a 19-point 3rd Quarter lead and fell to Argentina in the finals of the Diamond Ball tournament in Nanjing, China. Argentina, the defending gold medalists, features the Spurs’ All-NBA guard Manu Ginobili, forward-center Luis Scola of the Rockets and Bulls forward Andres Nocioni.

With the paint Bogut-less for most of the game, Scola led all scorers with 32. Ginobili added 24 and Nocioni 20. And they got some help from the refs. In my last post, I noted that the Aussies, who play a rough, aggressive Detroit-style defense might have trouble with the international referees, who’ll “call a foul if a defender so much as breathes on Manu Ginobili.”

Sure enough, with Australia leading 54-35 early in the 3rd, Ginobili hit a three to close it to 16, and then the whistles started blowing. The Aussie were called for six fouls in three minutes, sending three of its starting five to the bench with foul trouble. Ginobili took over and suddenly the lead was nine and the crowd was going nuts. The fans, the refs, even the waterboys — Argentina has it all in international ball.

Bogut’s ankle injury doesn’t sound serious, and he probably would’ve played more if it was an Olympic game. As it was, why give Argentina a free look at a full strength team with its center? Australia and Argentina are in Group A of the Olympic tournament, so they’ll meet again in group play.

I’ve gotta clip some more Aussie sports writing: In the 4th quarter, “The clock was on valium for the Aussies and the clearly pro-Argentina crowd was in a frenzy when Ginobili shot 2-of-2 from the line to reduce the margin to just three points with 6:26 remaining.”

The clock was on valium! 

You can follow Bogut and Australia here at the Australia Basketball site.

Team USA blew out Lithuania 120-84 on Friday, with Michael Redd scoring 16 and shooting 4-8 from behind the arc in 14 minutes. Redd, D-Wade, Kobe, Lebron and gang shot a barrage of threes over Lithuania’s zone, 23 in all, hitting 11.

When Redd started dialing in, Lebron took to yelling “bang bang!” when it went up. Settle down Lebron, you know the trade to Cleveland can’t go down unless Bucks GM Hammond works something out with Anderson Varejao and his agent, Dan Fegan. … and you know what Fegan’s like.