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NBA AM: Team USA Gets Wake-Up Call from Brazil
Posted By Alex Raskin On July 17, 2012 @ 9:14 am In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
An 80-69 exhibition win for Team USA over the Brazilian Men’s National Team doesn’t sound so bad, but for a brief moment, things looked ugly. With President Barack Obama looking on in the front row of the Verizon Center crowd, the Americans were simply outworked by a smart, gritty Brazilian team for the first 12 minutes of play.
Known as a defensive whiz, Brazilian forward and former San Antonio Spur Alex Garcia got his team’s offense going with 12 first-quarter points thanks to a 4-of-5 mark from the field in the frame. Anderson Varejao added a quick six points off the bench and Team USA found itself trailing 27-17 after the first quarter.
But America wasn’t going to let the Brazilians shoot 62.5 percent from the field for the entire game. Team USA held them to just five second-quarter points and had a scoring edge in the third and fourth quarters as well. LeBron James registered 30 points and six rebounds while Kevin Durant added 11 points off the bench.
Maybe Team USA was never in danger of actually losing the game, but there were lessons to be found throughout. Specifically, America’s defense—usually Team USA’s greatest strength on the court—has to be at a top level for the entire game. Had James not played 32:56 last night, things would have been considerably closer. Typically, foreign players grew up playing with each other whereas American Olympic teams come together at a much later age. And when Team USA is at that kind of a disadvantage in terms of chemistry, the defensive effort has to be at a consistent level.
“We did not have defensive intensity (early in the game); if this team doesn’t have that, we’re going to get scored on,” USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said afterwards, as quoted by USABasketball.com. “I mean 27 points in (the first) ten minutes, and 42 in (the final) 30. It’s a huge difference. We’re going to have to—if we win the gold medal, it will be because of how well we play defensively. To win this game like that I think is a good learning experience for our group.”
The other lesson Team USA has to take from this is that they won’t always have the biggest players. Brazil started Tiago Splitter (6-11), Nene (6-10) and brought Varejao (6-10) off the bench. Besides Tyson Chandler, though, Krzyzewski didn’t put another legitimate center on the floor (Anthony Davis, who is really more of a power forward, received a DNP-CD).
“That was something that I was expecting in coming here, since the beginning of training camp,” said Chandler of Team USA’s size disadvantage. “I don’t think we struggled because of the lack of bigs. It was our first real trip. They showed us some different looks and we adjusted to them defensively.”
Chandler finished with only three blocks and one rebound in 19 minutes.
“Yeah, it was a great test,” Krzyzewski said of Brazil’s size. “I thought we did an excellent job with that. When they scored the 27 points in the first period, it wasn’t as a result of not defending their bigs. I just think they got through our defense, our full court defense too quickly and caused numerical advantage possessions in their favor. Once we made that correction, it became a little bit more difficult for them to score.”
Team USA’s next exhibition comes on July 19th in Manchester, England against Great Britain.
“We will do a much better job on our shots,” said Kobe Bryant, who finished with eight points on just 3-of-11 shooting from the field. “Our legs were a little heavy and our shots were a little short but we will get better at it.”
Obama Prefers 1992 Dream Team to 2012 Men’s National Team
The debate has raged on ever since Bryant suggested that Team USA’s 2012 roster would have beaten the 1992 Dream Team in its prime.
Last night in Washington, D.C., Obama was asked for his opinion.
“This is a generational thing,” Obama said in an halftime interview with ESPN on Monday night. “I was around in ’92, I was a Bulls fan, so I’ve got to go with the original Dream Team.”
“I suspect that Michael and ‘Sir Charles’ and others would point out they were probably never down at any point in any of their games,” Obama said. “But this is a great team, unbelievable talent.”
Obama also took time to speculate on why Bryant would have made that comment.
“You know, Kobe’s a competitor, so you expect him to do a little trash talking whenever the opportunity arises,” Obama said.
Felton to Start for Knicks?
After being acquired by the Knicks in a sign-and-trade deal with the Portland Trail Blazers, point guard Raymond Felton is expected to start over Jason Kidd next season, wrote Marc Berman of the New York Post:
Yesterday, with the Lin situation still unresolved—at least publicly—the team finalized a sign and trade to acquire point guard Raymond Felton from the Trail Blazers and an NBA source told The Post last night Felton has already been told he is the Knicks’ starting point guard and that Jason Kidd will be his backup.
Felton averaged over 17 ppg during his previous stint with the Knicks and he has experience playing with Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire.
Lakers Continue to get Older
The Los Angeles Lakers have already added 38-year-old point guard Steve Nash, and now they’re prepared to keep the AARP trend alive. As reported by Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, free agent Antawn Jamison, who had been considering the Bobcats, will be signing with the Lakers. Bonnell reports the Brooklyn Nets were “also in the running,” but their interest wasn’t nearly as great as the Lakers’ or Bobcats’.
And, as Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears reported last night on Twitter, the Lakers will work out veteran center Jermaine O’Neal in Las Vegas on Thursday. He had knee surgery in February, but apparently feels strong enough for another NBA season.
HOOPSWORLD Catches Up With Shelvin Mack
Wizards guard Shelvin Mack isn’t a household name, but with a bit more experience, he could be a valuable reserve off the bench behind John Wall and first-round pick Bradley Beal.
Through three summer league games Mack is averaging 11.3 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists per contest. He’s struggled shooting from the field (just a 40.6-percent mark), but the former Butler product continues to show a good motor, and that’s important for a young team like Washington.
HOOPSWORLD caught up with Mack in Las Vegas over the weekend.
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