Posts Tagged ‘Team USA

17
Jan
08

Ben Gordon to join Luol Deng on Great Britain?

Rumors have been around for a long time that Ben Gordon might join the GB national team ever since Luol Deng committed to it. Gordon was born in England whereas Deng’s family was granted political asylum and moved there. Until today I’ve yet to see any evidence that Gordon could or would follow Deng in this matter. Deng, after all, had to become a citizen officially and get a British passport before he could play with GB. While Gordon was born in the country, he moved with his mother to the states while still a baby. I didn’t know if he had a passport and he’s been cryptic in his comments on this topic so far, possibly holding out hopes for making Team USA.

However, in a chat on ESPN.com today Marc Stein provided more positive evidence that we could see BG join Deng and help GB make some noise in the world of basketball:

Ethers (London): What are the chances of Ben Gordon playing for Team GB seeing as his
chances of playing for USA Basketball are slim?

SportsNation Marc Stein: (11:29 AM ET ) Our man in England (Ian Whittell) says it's very
likely to happen and I defer to his expertise on this one. Gordon already has the
proper passport and has expressed an interest to play for them thanks to some
seriously lobbying from Luol Deng and GB coach Chris Finch. There's a chance it could
happen as soon as August or September when qualifying for Eurobasket 2009 starts.
22
Aug
07

The Celtics and Team USA

Today in Chris Sheridan’s column he pointed out that Team USA may have some trouble successfully blending the playing styles of Kobe, LeBron and Carmelo:

The uninformed might wonder: "How could they possibly lose with those
three playing together? To which the informed might reply: "Hey, that's
three guys on the court at the same time who, no matter how good they
are, all need the ball in their hands to be effective. It'll be tough
to make that work."

When you read Team USA’s dilemma, what current NBA roster does it remind you of? I know there’s some team that now has three superstars who have throughout their careers always had possession of the ball more than anybody else on their team. Now, suddenly those three players, – just like Kobe, LeBron and Carmelo – are being thrust onto the same team and everyone is as sure that they’ll easily win the Eastern Conference as they were Kobe, LeBron and Carmelo would easily handle the Select Team.

The difference between the Team USA trio and the Celtics trio is that the Celtics will have an entire season to work out the kinks while Team USA will have 10 games. So let’s say that the Celtics do work out the kinks. Paul Pierce becomes the dominant ball handler. When KG gets good position he’ll get the ball in the post and hold it until he shoots or is double teamed. If he’s double teamed he’ll kick it out to the three point line for Ray Allen. Sounds like a great system, right? It is, BUT it will be a vast waste of Ray Allen’s talents if things work out this way. He will be paid like the superstar he is, while playing the game that Jason Kapono plays. Think he’ll get tired of that at some point?

The other possibility is that they never can adapt to not having the entire offense run through them thus never develop a good chemistry. Either way it doesn’t matter because no chemistry means an 8 seed even in the East and good chemistry means a second round playoff series loss because they don’t have a bench. I don’t mean to hate on the Celtics, but Sheridan’s analysis of the Big 3 on Team USA perfectly illustrates my previous arguments about the Celtics and there’s really not a lot of NBA news to write about right now.

Oh well, at least Team USA has a bench.

20
Aug
07

Nick Collison to lead Team USA

Maybe I was wrong about Nick Collison.

Kirk Hinrich’s buddy actually tore the rim off of the backboard in a recent Team USA practice!  Maybe he is a more dominant post presence than I thought?!?  Or maybe he was just playing in a high school gym with sketchy equipment.  I think I’m going to lean towards the latter.

The whole ordeal did provide a fun picture of Collison, clearly enjoying his feat more than he should be. 

Team USA is finally going to play some real games this week.  It will be the first chance we’ve had to watch real basketball since the Finals, though some would argue the last real basketball took place one round earlier.  USA vs. Venezuela Wednesday night!

I’m less than excited after reading that the senior team lost to that team of “young players” the USA basketball program put together to challenge them.  (side rant:  I don’t understand why they are referred to as a group of young players over and over again when many are older than some of the senior team players)  The Select Team, as they’re calling them, has some very nice players.  Nevertheless, the senior team should demolish them.  In my opinion it just goes to show that no matter what these superstars are saying, when you put together a bunch of guys who are used to having the ball 80% of the time they’re going to have trouble meshing on the court no matter how much they talk about being unselfish.  Even if they aren’t selfish with the ball, they still learned how to play as the focal point of their team.  Maybe actual role players would do better jobs playing roles than superstars.

17
Aug
07

Would the Lakers trade Kobe for Joakim Noah?


Luol Deng is now a British
citizen so he can play on the
2012 UK Olympic team.

Bulls news is as slow as ever. I found this article today about Luol Deng and the 2012 British basketball team. It’s a little hard to get excited for a team that will exist 5 years from now, though if you’re a basketball fan in the UK I guess you take what you can get. I love Lu and have every confidence that he’ll be an all-star very soon, but this description is a bit optimistic in terms of his potential even if you are a Bulls fan:

But the 22-year-old hopes it will be the first step on the road
to the 2012 Olympic Games, and the start of a revolution in British
basketball.
When the London Games come around, the Sudan-born player
will be 27, and on the basis of his current form, would
walk into any Olympic team in the world.
Last season he was the National Basketball Association's
Sportsman of the Year, and is poised to sign a new four-year
contract, which would put him above Premier League stars
such as Wayne Rooney and John Terry in terms of earnings.
But for £70 a day, Deng has chosen to play for Britain, a
country which, in its one previous Olympic basketball
tournament - also in London, in 1948 - lost all three games.
The burning question is - why?

Manute Bol and Luol Deng are both from
the Dinka tribe in The Sudan. Manute
taught Luol how to paly basketball.
Fortunately Deng is a bit taller than Mugsy.

Somebody needs to tell them across the pond that the NBA’s Sportsman of the Year has nothing to do with the winner’s basketball abilities. If Deng were an American it looks like he’d have a shot at the 2012 Team USA. But walk on to any team in the world? Hopefully, but it certainly doesn’t look like a given yet.

Luol Deng is to British basketball as Luol Deng is to
these two guys next to him.

Let’s talk about a Kobe to the Bulls trade since there’s nothing else to focus on and Kobe hasn’t backed off his trade demand despite multiple opportunities. Remember, Bryant has a no trade clause and has made it clear several times that Chicago is his #1 option.

Let me start off by making it clear that I don’t think this trade will ever happen. If the Lakers demand anything over Ben Gordon and Tyrus Thomas I don’t think Paxson would go for it. Paxson has put several years and a lot of effort into composing a team of his type of players. High character guys from winning backgrounds who won’t rock the boat. He believes in his plan and his team. He’s shown in the past two seasons that he won’t deal his players even when he has a great opportunity. I’m not saying that he should or shouldn’t trade for Kobe, just that he won’t.

If I’m running the Bulls I engage in serious trade talks with the Lakers, even if I’m going in thinking there’s a 1% chance anything is going to get done. Ben Gordon is definitely on the table because Kobe would replace everything BG7 brings to the team and more. I love Little Ben, but Kobe is Kobe. I could give up either Tyrus or Noah, but not both. The team needs one quality big man for the future, at least. I could include Ben Wallace but they wouldn’t want him. Duhon would have to be a part of the trade because he only has 1 year left on his contract and would add PG depth to a Lakers team that desperately needs it. I don’t think Nocioni could be included because his contract is brand new, but if he could be I would make him part of the deal. I’d have to include a lot of spare pieces because Kobe makes so much and his contract would have to be offset.

Basically I’d offer everything except the below players and throw in every first round pick for the next 5 years. Considering how strong the team would be and the youth it would still have, I’d have no use for the draft anyway.

Ben Wallace – The Lakers wouldn’t want him and he’d help a lot in what would be the first of several inevitable Finals runs.

Kirk Hinrich – As the Celtics will find out this season, you can’t win a championship without a quality point guard. Duhon is good but I don’t want him in charge of a championship team.

Tyrus Thomas OR Joakim Noah – Since the Bulls don’t have any superstars, exciting young players are what the Lakers would demand in return for Kobe. Tyrus is as exciting as they come and Noah was a huge college star. Both would be appealing to LA. The Bulls have to keep one in order to secure a well-rounded team 5 years from now.

Luol Deng – Because he’s still only 22 and clearly getting better by the day I wouldn’t involve him in any trade. Sure, Kobe is better than Deng probably ever will be. Nevertheless, if I’m running the Bulls, Deng is not in this trade.

Thabo Sefolosha – I would only throw Sefolosha in at the last second if he was a deal breaker. As Kobe gets older and doesn’t have enough energy to play 100% at both ends of the floor this team would need a defensive stopper like Sefolosha. Also, it’s looking like Thabo could spell Hinrich at the point, which would be important if Duhon was included in the trade. Sefolosha could also play the two and the three making him an ideal 6th man. He would bring very necessary depth to the team.

We’d be looking at a team that not even Tim Donaghy could touch. It would line up like this:

C – Ben Wallace
PF – Tyrus Thomas or Joakim Noah
SF – Luol Deng
SG – Kobe Bryant
PG – Kirk Hinrich

6th Man – Thabo Sefolosha
Bench – Anything left after the trade. The Bulls are one of the deepest teams in the NBA right now and a couple of quality players would be left after a trade, even with the boatload of spare change they’d have to give up.

That’s what I’d present to the Lakers organization. That’s probably similar to what Kobe is imagining when he pictures himself in a Bulls uniform. However, Jerry Buss and Mitch Kupchak would turn it down and I’d go into the season perfectly happy with what I have.

Paxson won’t even go that far. I’m sure of it, not mad about it, just sure of it. Kobe might imagine the Bulls giving up that package + Deng and still think he brings enough that he could make up for what the team is losing. As great as he is, that Bulls team seems too similar to his current Lakers team.

So what you see right now when you look at the Bulls roster is what you’ll see on opening night and very likely what you’ll see the day after the trade deadline. Personally, I’m happy with what I see.

14
Aug
07

Losing faith in Team USA

Team USA made some surprising announcements yesterday.  They stated that Kirk Hinrich, Shane Battier and Greg Oden are withdrawing from this summer’s team.  Also, they told us that Nick Collison would be added to the senior team’s roster.

I’m pretty sure that Oden already announced his withdrawal a few weeks ago, so I’m not sure why Team USA would announce it now. 

Hinrich and Battier started games last summer in the World Championship tournament.  They were also considered the two best defenders on last year’s team.  It seems strange they would pull out now and their withdrawal brings up some interesting questions about the current philosophy of Team USA.

Nick Collison was added to the team???  Was this a last second attempt to by Team USA to try and keep Collison’s college roommate happy?  No, but that’s about the only way I can make sense of the addition.  I’m all about mixing role players with stars on the Olympic team, but Collison?  He very well might not even start in Seattle (or OKC or wherever) this season. 

Sam Smith quotes Jerry Colangelo in his article today:

"We are adding another 'big' in Nick Collison, and he'll
participate in the August training," Colangelo said.
"We're excited about his addition. He has had a lot of
USA Basketball experience. He's physical, and he handles
the pick-and-roll as well as anyone. He's been added to
the senior national team for a reason."

In this quotation Colangelo makes a few things clear.  Collison is definitely being added to the senior team, so we shouldn’t be thinking he’s another practice squad (junior team) member for the superstars to beat up on.  Also, Collison is being added for his size, pick-and-roll abilities (or possibly abilities defending the p-a-r?), and his Team USA experience.

Maybe the Team USA experience (played on the ’03 Tournament of the Americas championship team with Jason Kidd) will help him, a bit.  Beyond that experience his participation doesn’t make sense.  There are lots of big guys out there.  He can handle the pick-and-roll?  Honestly, I think they threw him in because he’s white.  This team represents the country and if you look at every Team USA since the original dream team you’ll find a couple of white guys that make you wonder if there weren’t other players who could help the team more.  I think that being white helped Hinrich make the team last year and Mike Miller make it this year.  The strange thing about Collison is that he doesn’t bring one strong skill that he can use to fill a role, thus becoming a role player.  Hinrich is a premier defender.  Miller is one of the best three-point shooters in the league.  Collison is a solid all-around big man coming off the bench on a good team. 

It just seems like there had to be better players out there who brought well-rounded games and still had a specialty.  I think Tyson Chandler is a great fit for this team because he can do a little bit of everything but is an outstanding rebounder and good defender.  Collison can do a little bit of everything but is . . . 

On to the pride of Iowa.  Hinrich hasn’t commented yet on why he withdrew from Team USA.  Since he played last year he’ll still be allowed to participate in next year’s Olympics because he played one of the two seasons leading up to the games.  It works the same for Jason Kidd and Kobe Bryant who didn’t play last summer. 

The rumor is that Hinrich saw a tough fight ahead with Deron Williams just in order to make the team and then a lot of time on the bench behind Kidd and Chauncey Billups.  Hinrich got married this summer and also may want to spend his time with wifey before the long NBA season ahead.  He may have just been offended.  After coming out, working hard last summer and starting three games in the tournament, he played the second fewest minutes in the organized team scrimmage a few weeks ago.  Only JJ Redick, who should have no chance of making this team, played less than Hinrich. 

The other factor that may have been crucial to Kirk’s decision is the wear and tear that year-round competitive basketball supposedly puts on a player.  I’m neither an NBA player nor a professional athlete of any kind, so I really can’t comment from experience.  However, I have read many times that the grind of the NBA season can wear on players as they get old.  Hinrich is by no means old, but he’s not a rookie or young player either.  The NBA season is also supposed to be harder than other professional sports mostly because of the traveling.  While an NBA player has more off days than and MLB player, the NBA player often has to visit four different cities in one week.  The MLB player stays in each city he goes to for at least three days.  Also, in basketball you’re running constantly.  In baseball you don’t have the same kind of physical fatigue.  In football and soccer you do, but you don’t play as frequently. 

Hinrich shot only 37.6% in the playoffs and many have attributed that low number to being worn down from nonstop play over the year.  At 26 and guiding a Bulls team on the brink of breaking through to the elite level perhaps Hinrich views this as a time to focus on the being prepared for the season.  His absence will make me somewhat less interested in Team USA, but all the more excited for the Bulls season. 

The larger issue that Team USA’s announcements bring up is that of the composition of the team.  Last year Colangelo and Coach K harped on having a well-rounded team that played defense in addition to offense.  Not a team of only all-stars, but a team with stars and role players, scorers and defenders, rebounders and hustle guys.  However, two of the best defenders left the team possibly as a result of being neglected.  They’re being replaced by offensive-minded all-stars like Michael Redd and Kobe Bryant.  Nobody’s saying Kobe shouldn’t be on this team, just that if you put it together in the image of 2002 and 2004 you’re likely to get the same results.  Adding Nick Collison to the roster isn’t fooling anybody either.  He won’t play while Amare and Dwight Howard will.  Hopefully we’ll get a different result than in years past despite the fielding the same type of team. 

24
Jul
07

Donaghy and Hinrich

There are only two big NBA stories out there right now.  Tim Donaghy and Team USA.  If we approach these stories from a Bulls point of view we have the “Headbandgate” game and Kirk Hinrich.  Let’s look at Headbandgate first.

The Tribune’s K.C. Johnson informs us that Donaghy worked three Bulls games last season.  Of those three the Headbandgate game clearly stands out.  For anybody who doesn’t remember the game that came to be known as Headbandgate (it’s an annoying name, we know) was a Bulls vs. Knicks game on November 25.  Ben Wallace had apparently become upset with both Skiles and Paxson in the preceding days.  He knew the Bulls had a rule against wearing headbands (a terrible rule by the way.  there’s no way to explain it other than they don’t want their players to look like thugs).  Wallace brought a headband to the game and put it on.  Skiles pulled him and told him he had to remove it.  He removed it but was benched again soon.  The Bulls new $60 million man played under 30 minutes that game and wasn’t happy about it.  When he did make it back into the game he put the headband back on in a direct defiance of Skiles’ orders.  Skiles soon pulled him and he didn’t see the floor again.  Interestingly this game served as a turning point for the Bulls season and Wallace’s relationship with the team.  He became much more involved after that game and the Bulls turned around from their awful start to the season.  Wallace made a statement to team management that he was a veteran and 4 time Defensive Player of the Year.  He would not be treated like a rookie.  The Bulls listened and shortly after the incident Wallace was saying he knew it would help the team.

Lost in all the headband hype was the fact that the refs made some quirky calls during the game.  The Bulls were up by 22 at halftime, but the Knicks attempted 16 free throws in the first 5 and half minutes of the third quarter while the Bulls attempted only two.  Skiles was called for two techs in that span and thus ejected by Donaghy’s crew.  Donaghy’s crews called more technical fouls last season than any other crew.  Without seeing the footage we can’t tell which ref called Skiles for the techs, but we do know that Skiles thought one was fishy. 

That night he said, “The ejection, I deserved. I deserved the second technical. I didn’t care for the first one that much. He was joking with me, I joked with him and he gave me a technical. Technically, you’re not allowed to comment.”

Was Donaghy trying to bring the scores closer together to cover a point spread?  Who really knows, but that game could very well go into a handful of games that will be used as evidence against him. 

NBullsA was upset to find out that an NBA ref was involved in a gambling scandal, however not surprised to find that a ref may have been intentionally influencing the outcome of games for personal or private reasons.  The biggest problem in the NBA is the inconsistency of how the games are called.  The inconsistency is so glaring that we have no doubt that it’s not random.  We never thought of gambling interests before.  Instead we assumed NBA league office mandates that playoff series should be extended whenever possible and stars SHOULD NOT foul out of games.  Also, we were pretty sure that certain refs had issues with certain players and let their whistles settle the score.  Whether it’s personal vendettas, league mandates or mob influence the NBA needs to fix the officiating problem. 

On to Team USA.  Kirk Hinrich started in the Blue vs. White game for the Blue team.  He had one nice alley oop pass, but that was about all he did.  He played the second fewest minutes of anyone on the team (two more than JJ Redick), shot 2-7 with 3 turnovers to his one assist.  However, both Hinrich and Chris Paul played very well and had outstanding assist-to-turnover ratios in last summer’s competitions.  With a team featuring so many other explosive scorers you figure they’d need a passing point guard who is a great defender. 

However, this year’s team features Jason Kidd, Chauncey Billups and Deron Williams, all of whom are bigger than Hinrich and Paul while providing similar skill sets.  Paul is unavailable this summer, but you still have to figure that the eventual 12-man roster won’t feature 4 point guards.  Will Hinrich make the team over the bigger names, perhaps receiving credit for participating last year as well as this year?  At least if he doesn’t make the cut he’ll have more time to recuperate for the upcoming Bulls season. 

Another new addition to this summer’s team is former Bull Tyson Chandler.  Many have speculated that Team USA needed a player like Chandler because they didn’t have a true shot blocker last season.  Chandler did have 2 blocks and led all rebounders with 13 in the exhibition, but Dwight Howard had 2 blocks as well.  We think Tyson is a great player and defender.  He could help the team a lot but he’s a bit overrated as a shot blocker.  He’s never averaged over 1.8 blocks per game despite being a defensive specialist who is over 7 feet tall.  Last season he averaged a career high 35 minutes per game but was unable to top his blocks average from ’04-’05 when he played 27 minutes per game.  We feel Team USA should keep him on the roster because they’ll have plenty of scoring and his defense would be key.  However, with player like Amare Stoudemire, Howard and Chris Bosh all looking like locks it’s very possible Chandler will be cut. 

19
Jul
07

Thursday Bulls notes

ESPN’s John Hollinger ranked the Bulls as the 12th Most Improved Team this offseason.  His list:

1. – Houston  
2. – Charlotte
3. – Phoenix
4. – New York
5. – Atlanta                        
6. – Boston
7. – Memphis
8. – Washington
9. – New Orleans
10. – Sacramento
11. – Los Angeles
12. – Chicago

(added Joakim Noah and Joe Smith; lost P.J. Brown)
Maybe power forward isn't the weak spot on the roster anymore.
Already possessing a promising stud at the position in Tyrus
Thomas, the Bulls added the energy of Noah and the veteran
smarts of Smith to their roster, shoring up a spot manned by a
fading Brown last season. No, none of these guys can score in
the post, which is where the Bulls really could use help, but
they'll add another jolt of energy to the frontcourt. Plus,
they give Chicago yet more assets to throw into a trade for the
likes of Kevin Garnett or Pau Gasol.

We’d probably place Chicago a few spots higher on the list, but overall it’s an interesting take on team changes so far.  The bright side for Bulls fans is that 9 out of the 11 teams on the list above the Bulls had significantly worse records in ’06-’07 than Chicago did.  Everyone knows the Suns are going to be good.  Yes, the Rockets will probably now legitimately join the upper echelon in the West.  But this list also indicates the Bulls will stay atop the power rankings of Eastern Conference teams.

  • Joe Smith says he has a legit post-up game.  “Posting up is what got me here, from college to my first few years in the league. I started developing the mid-range game when I started playing with Kevin Garnett [in Minnesota] because he was the main post-up guy. I had to spread the defense a bit. But I still feel comfortable with what I can do with my back to the basket.  In Philly last year, they used me a lot on the block, and I was able to get things accomplished whether it was for myself or drawing the double team and finding open guys,” Smith said. “I have a lot of confidence in what I can do on the block as well as what I can do away from the block.”
  • Hinrich will be at the USA Basketball camp in Vegas but he’ll have to compete with Jason Kidd, Chauncey Billups and Deron Williams to keep his spot on the team.  Luol Deng will play on the British national team this summer and in the ’08 olympics.  Thabo Sefolosha, the only player from Switzerland in the NBA, will do the same for the Swiss team.  Nocioni will not participate this summer on the Argentine team because his leg has not gained enough strength yet after his recovery from plantar fasciitis.  Rumors have circulated that Ben Gordon would also play for Britain as he was born in London and spent the first three weeks of his life there.  Nothing official has been reported.



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