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NBA AM: Team USA’s Wake-Up Call
Posted By Derek Page On August 6, 2012 @ 8:00 am In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
It looks like this whole Olympics thing might not be a walk in the park for the United States men’s basketball team after all.
After bludgeoning Tunisia (110-63) and then dominating Nigeria by a record margin (156-73) in separate contests over the past week, the United States’ Olympic team ran into some stiff competition against Lithuania on Saturday. Intent on settling for three-pointers (USA made just 10 of 33 attempts from behind the arc in the contest) and hovering around the perimeter, the United States found themselves in a dog fight during the fourth quarter against a talented Lithuania team.
Trailing in the final six minutes to Linas Kleiza (who finished with 25 points) and a Lithuania squad that meant business, Team USA had to make every possession count late to pull out the victory. In fact, it took a frenetic 15-4 run and nine of LeBron James’ team-high 20 points over the final four minutes to pull out the victory.
In one of the few instances that Team USA has actually been tested this summer, James stepped up huge with his team needing a dominant stretch out of him the most. James wasn’t shy about emphasizing just how important a game like this is for the success this team wants to achieve during the 2012 Olympic Games.
“You want to get tested,” James told The Associated Press. “The best teams want to be tested. We love the competition. We’ve got some of the greatest competitors in our league, in this world, so you want to have a game where you feel like you were tested, and we had that today.”
Along those same lines, United States’ coach Mike Krzyzewski reiterated after the contest that the United States squad can and will play better going forward.
“We can play better offensively and defensively,” Krzyzewski said, “no question about that.”
With the competition progressively getting more difficult, Krzyzewski believes this game against a competent Lithuania team is just what the star-studded Americans needed. The head coach for the Americans wants to make sure this team is playing it’s best basketball with the Quarterfinals fast approaching
“We can be more ready to play than we were,” Krzyzewski said. “But overall this was a really good game for us. Winning like we did was terrific for us… [Lithuania is] really good. We needed this.”
Especially after coasting to victory in the team’s previous two games, the tightly contested challenge against Lithuania will likely pay dividends as USA advances further in the Olympics.
“You’d like to win every game by 30 points, light up the cigar or put your feet up,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re better off now, now that we’re through it.”
With a team that features the majority of the best basketball players in the world, making sure these players keep their collective eyes on the prize and don’t take their opponents lightly is a must. Squeaking out a 99-94 victory over Lithuania to remain undefeated this summer can only reinforce that principle.
The road to Olympic gold doesn’t get any easier as the USA men’s basketball team takes on Argentina (3-1) this evening at 5:15 ET. No stranger to NBA talent, Argentina features NBA veterans Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola.
Paul Pierce Says Ray Allen “Made the Best Decision for Him”
Even though the Boston Celtics offered him more money to stay with the team early on in free agency, veteran sharpshooter Ray Allen decided his best move was to join the Miami HEAT. Arguably the greatest three-point shooter in NBA history, a more clearly defined, and likely larger, role in Miami may have been the deciding factor to leave Boston.
After spending five seasons as teammates and winning an NBA championship together, the Celtics’ longest-tenured player, Paul Pierce, wishes Allen well with the HEAT.
“Ray made the best decision for him,” Pierce said via video interview on the Boston Celtics NBA.com team page. “That’s what it’s all about. You get in these situations, you get into free agency and you make a decision based on what’s best for you and your family. Ray will always be a brother to me.
“If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be wearing a championship ring. The things he was able to do for this organization will never be forgotten.”
After losing Allen, Boston made sure they had no shortage of players to try to fill his spot via free agency this summer. Former Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry was signed fairly quickly this offseason and the C’s also traded for former Houston Rockets’ shooting guard Courtney Lee to go along with incumbent 2012 standout Avery Bradley.
“I thought [Celtics' GM Danny Ainge] did a good job of trying to replace Ray Allen,” Pierce said. “As you know Ray Allen went off to Miami on his choice, but he was a great teammate, it was fun playing with him. But I think the guys coming in here — Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, trying to get a healthy Jeff Green, even some of our rookies — I think we’ve added a lot more depth, and it’s going to really take a lot of pressure off me this upcoming season.”
Having retooled this summer and hoping for a less injury-plagued 2013 season, the Celtics are likely to be right in the thick of the Eastern Conference standings throughout next season. Unfortunately for Pierce and Boston, Allen and the HEAT will likely be standing in the Celtics way deep in the postseason yet again next year.
Isaiah Austin Ready to Shine at Baylor
With three Baylor Bears taken in the top 38 picks of the 2012 NBA Draft, newcomer Isaiah Austin is ready to carry the load next season. Perry Jones III, Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller have moved on to the NBA and it’s time for a new crop of players to step up at Baylor – led on the frontline by Austin.
The high school All-American is currently participating in the Adidas Nations Global Tournament in Long Beach, California. One of the things Austin spoke about recently when HOOPSWORLD caught up with the impending freshman was his description of lingering questions about his toughness on the court.
“A lot of people call me soft or try to compare me to Perry Jones,” Austin said in an exclusive interview with HOOPSWORLD. “I don’t think I’m soft.”
In one of his first experiences competing with and against top-tier competition, Austin describes this experience as “a blessing” and is trying to soak up everything he can.
“This is probably one of the [most fun] experiences of my career,” Austin said. “Coming here, playing against all the top high school players… It’s just a blessing to be surrounded by all these NBA people and have them supporting us and try to get us to our goals.”
At nearly 7-feet-tall and 200 pounds, Austin says his coaches are working to help him develop his post game at the power forward and center positions.
“They definitely told me they want to see me play more in the post and I’ve been showing them I can do that,” Austin told HOOPSWORLD. “I’ve been showing them that I can be physical, I can run the floor, I can rebound and I can block shots.”
While some are already penciling Austin in as a lottery pick in the 2013 NBA draft, Austin says it’s not a foregone conclusion that he will be one-and-done at Baylor after his freshman season.
“No, not at all,” Austin said. “I’m going in there to help my team win and hopefully we can make it to the Final Four and even win that National Championship.”
One of the most highly touted prospects entering NCAA play next season, the spotlight will certainly be on Austin and Baylor this winter.
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