NBA AM: 2012 USA Men’s Team Goes Historic
Leading up to the Olympics no one really expected Team USA men’s basketball to be seriously tested by the field of competition until late in the medal round. But after the team’s first two contests in pool play of the 2012 games, both lopsided victories, plenty of chirping began to surface revolving around the squad’s slow starts, inconsistent play and struggles shooting from the perimeter.
But after Thursday’s eighty-three point win over Nigeria, the critics who were taking potshots at the team will have to create an alternative angle. The team led by 24 points after the first quarter and outscored the Nigerians 78-28 in the second half to put the finishing touches on the resounding victory.
Team USA was led by New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony who set a United States Olympic record by scoring 37 points, needing just fourteen minutes of court time. Anthony also went 10-for-12 from three-point range.
The team may be missing injured stars Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose and Chris Bosh but when guys are knocking down shots it is going to be tough for any team to defeat them this summer.
“When we get hot, it’s a big problem,” Kobe Bryant said according to the Associated Press. “So you have all these guys on one team and they all get hot on the same night, it’s tough.”
As a unit, Team USA shot 71.1 percent from the field and connected on 29-of-46 attempts from long range, 63 percent, in the win versus Nigeria.
“It was just one of them nights where as a unit we had it going,” Anthony said. “It could have been anybody out on the court playing against us.”
The team also set U.S. Olympic records for field goal percentage (71.1), field goals (59), three-pointers (29) and three-point attempts (46). The club also tied the record for assists (41).
Team USA now stands 3-0 in Group A pool play.
Miami HEAT Aren’t Looking To Add More Size: Contrary to popular opinion, the Miami HEAT are not looking to add more size to their frontcourt this summer. Point guard and center have long been the focal points the team has sought to address ever since the trio of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh united in 2010. However, the team won the title this past season by playing well with a smaller lineup which often saw Bosh logging minutes at center.
Team president Pat Riley says the franchise will continue evaluating options at center, but readily admits there’s no pressure to add one.
“We definitely are going to continue to look for somebody in that spot, but unless there’s an injury, we really don’t need a center,” Riley said in a radio interview with Joe Rose on WQAM.
It appears the team will feature Bosh more at the five spot going forward even though the nine year veteran is a natural power forward.
Riley says team originally envisioned Bosh playing more center when they signed him to a lucrative free agency deal two years ago, similar to the way the San Antonio Spurs utilize Hall of Fame bound big man Tim Duncan.
“We signed Chris, basically, in my mind, fully in my mind, not in the back of my mind, he was probably going to be our center in critical situations,” Riley said. “And, so, Chris Bosh is a power forward, he’s a Tim Duncan-type player, but when you watch the San Antonio Spurs play, Tim is in the middle. That’s all there is to it.”
Joel Anthony started the majority of games this past season for the HEAT but also saw his playing time in the playoffs steadily diminish in the later rounds. While Riley likes what Anthony provides in the lineup he ultimately believes when it comes down to crunch time, a frontcourt of James and Bosh puts Miami in the best possible position to win games.
“We like Joel Anthony as a defensive player,” Riley said. “He doesn’t score much. He’s a shot-blocker. He’s one of the great screeners in this league and pick-and-roll players.”
“When you’re playing at the highest, you’re going to be playing with Chris Bosh and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, whoever it is. That’s going to be your team,” Riley added. “And we have proven that with LeBron playing at the four spot, so to speak, that we’re so much better as a basketball team than we are with a conventional center and power forward. Now, we will continue to try to find players that can fit in with this team, but they don’t have to be center centers.”
Glen Davis, Poised For a Breakout Season? Veteran power forward Glen Davis is coming off a postseason in which he averaged 19 points and 9.2 rebounds per game for the Orlando Magic who were playing without center Dwight Howard.
Davis’ playoff performance hasn’t been lost on newly hired head coach Jacque Vaughn as we near the start of the 2013 season. Vaughn envisions Davis playing a larger role with the team this season and wants him ready for the challenges.
After Vaughn was hired one of his first orders of business was a face to face meeting with Davis to cover his expectations. According to Davis, the first year coach told him he would be a pivotal part of his plan for the team and asked him to be ready to contribute when training camp begins.
“You’re going to have the opportunity to be a contributor here,” Davis said recounting his meeting with Vaughn according to Joshua Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. “You’re going to have the opportunity to do big things, and you just be ready, making sure that you come in [to training camp Oct. 1] the right way, in the right shape, and just holding me accountable.”
The respect appears mutual, as Davis has been impressed by his new coach’s journey to get his first head coaching job.
“He’s a wonderful guy,” Davis said of Vaughn. “His upside is just amazing. Where he’s been in his life and his career, the things that he’s encountered as far as a basketball level and things like that is high. And he’s young. He’s ready. I called him a ‘thirsty dog,’ because I know he’s been chomping at the bits to get on that level of coaching. Now he has the opportunity to do that. I’m blessed and fortunate to be in a situation to be his first pupil.”
The importance of Davis to the Magic cannot be understated. Orlando could potentially enter next season without two-thirds of its starting frontcourt from last season. Ryan Anderson departed in free agency to the New Orleans Hornets and uncertainty still surrounds the long term future of All-Star center Dwight Howard with the franchise. Howard has reiterated his trade demand and has previously refused to sign an extension with the team.
Up Close With Khris Middleton
The Detroit Pistons selected Khris Middleton with the No. 39 overall pick in this year’s draft class. While the club has yet to offer him a deal, training camp is still roughly two months away so there is plenty of time to get something done. The Pistons have until September 5 to tender Middleton a contract in order to retain his draft rights.
HOOPSWORLD caught up with Middleton during Orlando Summer League to discuss his transition to the pro game, advice received from veterans and his thoughts on first round pick Andre Drummond.
NBA Chats: There are three chats today, starting with senior writer Yannis Koutroupis at 11am EST. Next, salary cap expert Larry Coon will go live at 3pm EST. Alex Kennedy’s weekly chat will start at 3pm EST as well. Get your questions for Alex in here.