Tag Archives: Team USA

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

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.