Aussie 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).
The Russians, led by Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko, have struggled with losses to Croatia and Lithuania, the top teams in Group A so far along with Argentina. The Russians have been working their injured power forward, Bulls bench player Viktor Khryapa into the rotation. 7′ 1″ Alexei Savrasenko is the center. This is must win for both teams and a good center matchup for Bogut. But will Goorjian play Bogut or leave him sit half the game?
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.