A Few Thoughts On The FIBA World Basketball Championships
I’ve really been enjoying the FIBA World Basketball Championships (or whatever the heck they’re calling them) the past couple weeks. The U.S. games, with the exception of the Brazil game, have been boring, but I’ve had a chance to watch a few really good matchups between some of the other teams. A few thoughts:
-Kevin Durant has been by far the best player in the tournament. Going into the tournament, I had some doubts about how he would fare in international play. He gets a large percentage of his points in the NBA from the free-throw line and the officials in FIBA play are notoriously lax with the whistles (except for Tim Duncan: that guy can’t make a move without getting whistled for a foul). But Durant has just been an absolute monster, scoring pretty much at will and just creating all kinds of matchup problems.
-The most overrated concern people have about the U.S. team was their lack of height. They start Lamar Odom, Durant, Andre Iguodala, Chauncey Billups, and SAT hoodwinker Derrick Rose. Yeah, this would be a pretty small lineup in the NBA but the athleticism of these guys is way higher than just about every other team that it doesn’t really affect them at all.
-I’m always amazed when great coaches do inexplicably stupid things that seem obvious to even a casual observer. In this case, Coach K’s insistence on starting Iguodala is baffling. This is a guy who is the exact opposite of the type of player that excels in international play. He can’t shoot, is not a good passer, and is not a good team player. Sure, he’s athletic and can haul down some rebounds, but give me Rudy Gay or, hell, even Kevin Love over him any day of the week. Case in point: in the U.S.’ only competitive game against Brazil, Iguodala played 30 minutes and finished with 3 points and 5 rebounds.
-One of my favorite things about watching international basketball is seeing random guys that you remember from years ago randomly show up. For example, JP Batista, former Gonzaga choke artist, is somehow on Brazil’s roster. Another good example was Florida guard Nick Calathes on the Greek roster, or Gonzaga’s Robert Sacre and Kelly Olynk on team Canada.
-One thing about these European players: they’re not afraid to give goofy facial hair a try. I give them a lot of credit for that; any man that can go on live television sporting a full neck beard is a man that deserves, nay, demands, respect.
-The guys that announce the games for the non-U.S. games on NBA TV run the gamut from “how are you doing this for a living” to “I wish this guy would announce the NBA finals” good. What’s interesting is that many of these games only feature one announcer. One of them English guy who uses quirky phrases like “82 playing 80” and is constantly clamoring for “unsportsmanlike” fouls. Englishman make great announcers, though. They tend to have better vocabularies than their American counterparts. For instance, this guy described the Serbian coach as “incandescent with anger,” a phrase I’m going to try my damnedest to incorporate into my sports vernacular. Tommy Heinsohn isn’t sending anyone running to their dictionary, that’s for sure.
-Naturally the question on everyone’s mind is whether any team can hang with the U.S. The team most people have been talking about is Spain, but I’m not so sure. Spain’s best player that I’ve seen has been slippery guard Juan Carlos Navarro, and I really don’t see him playing as well against the U.S. as he did in their exhibition game. Spain’s also got Rudy Fernandez and Rickey Rubio, but I don’t know. If they had Pau Gasol and Jose Calderon, I think they could beat the U.S. handily but without those two guys it’ll be tough. The three teams that I think have a shot against the U.S. are Turkey, Argentina, and Brazil. Turkey’s obviously got the home court advantage, and with a guy as good as Hedo Turkolugo playing on his home soil, there’s always the possibility of an upset. Argentina and Brazil are playing each other on Tuesday, and I think both teams are good. Argentina is probably the better team, and they’ve had arguably the second best player of the tourney in Russell Brand lookalike Luis Scola. Brazil took the U.S. down to the wire, and their big center Tiago Splitter giving the U.S. fits down low.
-If I were a betting man, though, I’d say the U.S. runs away with this one. I think the relative weakness of the other teams, coupled with the dominance of Durant and Derrick Rose (who’s been the second best player on the team, in my opinion) will lead to a gold.