When you think of the USA Men’s Basketball Olympic Team, you immediately remember the 1992 “Dream Team.” The 1992 team was the first American team to feature active NBA players and is considered the greatest team ever put together in any sport. Let me break it down for you. The Dream Team consisted of Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, John Stockton, David Robinson, Christian Laettner, Scottie Pippen, Clyde Drexler, and Chris Mullin. Unless you live in a shell or have never heard anything about professional basketball you should have heard of majority of these players. The USA coasted through the Olympics embarrassing country after country and letting the world know that this is America’s sport and no one will change that. Even though the USA is ranked the #1 in the FIBA world rankings, they have found it difficult to portray the same dominance that they showed in the 90’s.
In 2004, the USA finished with an embarrassing bronze medal and received criticism from a country that does not accept anything but gold in this competition. If we lose a gymnastics competition or two who cares, but the basketball team must bring home the gold. The 2008 team redeemed the 2004 team’s failure by winning it all and restoring balance to the basketball world. This afternoon the 2012 squad was announced and I have to say that as an American I am very proud of the team we are sending to the London Olympics. Led by veteran’s Kobe Bryant, Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony, the USA will look to sweep through these Olympics with what I feel is the best team since 1992. Besides the three I have already mentioned, the USA will have the talents of Russel Westbrook, Chris Paul, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Love and Tyson Chandler.
A lot of people look at this team as undersized and inexperienced, but what I see is a team that is built for the modern-day game. If you read the names of the 2012 team you will find only one true Center in Tyson Chandler and then no other dominant big men. Don’t try to come at me with Blake Griffin and Kevin Love because neither of them represent the typical big man that NBA fans are used to. They are both great players in their own rights, but players like Ewing, Robinson, Barkley and Malone are true big men. Some people will look at this like a negative, but with the way that international basketball is played now, the big man is a formality and no longer a necessity.
This is Carmelo, Kobe and Lebron’s third Olympics that they are playing together so the veteran leadership is present and accounted for. For some reason there are some skeptics out there that feel this year’s squad can’t match up to the 2008 team.
“They are just like us, they also have players with a lot of talent,” the Oklahoma City power forward said Saturday in his first full day of training with the Spanish team. “They are a different team to 2008, but their players are still very good.” I hope that the USA team doesn’t take condescending comments like this lightly. Sure Spain finished with the silver medal back in 2008, but there is no way they think they can actually match up with all of the best scorers in the NBA. The NBA scoring champion 7 out of the last 8 year’s is currently on the USA team. I honestly feel that the roster that we have going into the Olympics could have competed with the Dream Team. Now I am not saying they would have beaten the Dream Team, but any game between them would have definitely been competitive.
Chris Paul thinks that this team is much better than the ’08 squad. “When I think about ’08, we were really good then. But like me, LeBron and D-Will, all of us talk about, you’ve got to think about how much better all of us are now than we were in ’08,” Paul said. “All of us as players, we shoot the ball better. Guys are more athletic, guys are more confident. One through 12, no question we’re deeper than we were in ’08.”
If you didn’t notice, OKC will have their big 3 on the roster and James Harden couldn’t be more proud. “Great characters, workaholics, just humble guys, humble guys and blessed to be in this position,” Harden said of himself, Durant and Westbrook. (Guys) who work hard and just set ourselves up for greatness and to achieve, and just to be on the same team with these guys means a lot.”
Spirits are up and the gold medal is America’s to lose. Will all of these high expectations be too much for America to handle? I think not. I expect to see the USA dominate throughout the Olympics and bring home the gold. If that doesn’t happen it will be considered on of the biggest tragedies in American basketball history. How do you feel this USA team will finish the 2012 Olympics?
NBA Rookie of the Year, 8-time NBA All-Star selection, 2008 Scoring Title, 3-time NBA MVP, and 6-time NBA All First Team selection would seem to be enough accolades to be considered one of the best ever. Well, for Lebron James it wasn’t until last night when he led his Miami Heat to the NBA Title and picked up his first ever Championship ring and Finals MVP award. The dark cloud that has been following over Lebron’s head since he decided to take his talents to South Beach has finally gone away and now the best player in the world can get the credit he deserves. I can’t say I was rooting for James to win it, but as a basketball fan and they way he won it was absolutely remarkable.
From the opening tip in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, James seemed determined to finish the series in Miami and not have to travel back to the most hostile environment in the NBA, OKC. Fittingly, Miami’s first two points were from an emphatic slam by James and from that point on you just felt that his talents had finally surfaced in South Beach the way he promised his fans back in 2010. Throughout the playoffs I was cheering against Miami for no other reason than I am a huge supporter of the underdog. I mean I am a Mets, Knicks and Jets fan. In this game, as the minutes slowly diminished and Miami was rapping up their rout of the Thunder, 121-106, I found myself smiling and slightly impressed with what Miami had accomplished.
There’s something to be said about winning a championship, but there is a lot more to be said about a team that wins a championship when most of the world is rooting against them. As much as I would like to not give any credit to anyone except Lebron, I can’t. This Championship run was a legitimate team effort. From consistently strong games from Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, to surprising shooting performances from Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers, there was really no chance for OKC. The second that the Thunder developed a game plan, Miami seemed to have their counterattack ready to go.
In the clinching game 5, Miami’s surprising star was non-other than “Sir Limps A Lot,” Mike Miller. Like a robotic zombie, Miller limped up and down the court and just drained 3-pointer after 3-pointer. Miller entered the game 0-3 from downtown, but after game 5 finished he was an astonishing 7-11 for the series. For all you math whizzes out there, that means he went a lights out 7-8 from beyond the arc in an NBA Title clinching game…that is amazing! I hate to say it but even Miami’s undeserving coach seemed to of run a few plays that actually looked like he knew what he was doing. I find it remarkable that a team that has basically been together for 2 years waited till their final game of the NBA Finals to show the world their best stuff.
Sure Miami won their second Championship ever as a franchise and it was a total team effort, but what the fans of basketball will always remember this series as is Lebron’s first title. Now, will it be the first of many like Lebron promised us two years ago? In my opinion I think it is. If last night’s game, and all of the playoffs for that matter, is any indication of how Lebron’s game is improving then the rest of the world should step aside. Michael Jordan didn’t win his first Championship until he was 28 and the now 27 year-old James has a platform to measure the rest of his career against. Congratulations to the Miami Heat for winning the NBA Championship and a special congratulations to Lebron James for not only proving the haters wrong, but proving that he is the best player in the world.
It wasn’t Lebron James, it wasn’t Dwayne Wade and it wasn’t Chris Bosh, so who pushed the Miami Heat to a 104-98 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in game 4 of the NBA Finals? His name is Mario Chalmers and he was absolutely marvelous. When the Heat were down and needed a place to turn, Mario took a note out of Russel Westbrook’s book and focused more on scoring rather than passing. Now that is not typically the mentality you want from your starting point guard but there are many times when it is effective. Chalmers scored 25 points which was only 1 point behind James for their team high. There were times late in the game where Chalmers looked as dominant as he once did when he played for the Kansas Jayhawks.
OKC came out to a blazing start and seemed to have complete control over the game. Unfortunately for the Thunder, they really only had one player show up and that was Russel Westbrook. Westbrook had a performance that I can only describe as one of the most impressive offensive outbursts I have ever seen in an NBA Finals game. Russel had a stat line of 43 points, including 17 in the fourth, and 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Westbrook’s PIC (Partner in Crime), Kevin Durant, seemed a little flat during the game and although he finished with 28 points he never seemed to make the big shot that shifted momentum back into the Thunder’s favor. Sixth man of the year, James Harden, was pathetic all game and if he doesn’t turn it around then the Thunder have absolutely no chance to beat Miami Thursday.
Now I don’t like making excuses, especially in the Finals, but something is getting out of hand. The refereeing in this series as well as every one of Lebron James’ series, has been inconsistent and unfair. Westbrook had 43 points, he took 18 shots from within the painted area and seemed to get hacked nearly every time. He accumulated 3 foul shots. Lebron and Wade had 51 points combined, they took a total of 17 shots from within the painted area and got to the line 17 times. That stat seems a little off because there is no way the calls can be that lopsided. OKC went to the foul line the second most amount of times out of every team in the NBA during the regular season but only made it there 16 times in game 4. That is a fucking joke because the refs seem to cradle Lebron James’ testicles in their hands as he hacks players without whistles on a regular basis. Even my PIC, NYBobby, called me during the game to say he noticed what I and the basketball world have been saying all year.
ESPN analyst Steven A. Smith has been criticizing the refereeing all playoffs long and said this morning that one of the reasons that Durant is getting the shit end of every call this series is because he is too skinny. That really pisses me off because with that logic I should be in the NBA because my fat ass would be getting every call in my favor. Now I will stop bitching about the refs and give some credit where credit is due. Lebron James is the best player in the world. He can dominate whenever he wants and in game 4 he even proved that he can score without being able to use his legs. Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after the game that James was cramping because he was dehydrated. Well Erik, maybe you should grab the man a cup of water once in a while because he is about to win you your first of many undeserved championships. The series seems to be slipping away from OKC and now Thursday’s game will determine if these two teams are going to travel back to Oklahoma. If OKC can win Thursday then its anyone’s series from there on.
Last night was the perfect description of what Pat Riley and the Heat organization envisioned when they put together their team of all-stars in 2010. Fluid ball movement and precision passing for easy baskets inside the paint is the only way Miami can succeed and they did it nearly flawlessly last night in their 91-85 victory. Led by 29 points and 14 rebounds from James, Miami found different ways to hurt the Thunder throughout game 3 of the NBA Finals last night. Wade, although he had a poor shooting performance, finished the game with 25 points and 7 boards and 7 assists, which was without question his best game of the Finals thus far. Chris Bosh also provided his second straight double-double since being reinserted into the starting lineup that seems to have the Thunder flustered.
So where did the Thunder go wrong last night? Durant finished with a respectable 25 points with over 50% shooting, while Russel Westbrook added a hard-fought 19 points. The key missing piece to the puzzle was James Harden. The sixth man of the year shot a pathetic 2-10 from the floor and finished with a dismal 9 points. The Thunder can not beat the Heat in Miami without the spark off the bench that has made them such a formidable team throughout the year.The loss might also be attributed to the fact that Shane Battier, Miami’s former sixth man but now starter, is having one of the best 3-point shooting Finals of all time. Through the first three games of the series Battier has made at least four 3-pointers. No one in the NBA has done that in four straight finals games since Dennis “3D” Scott did it back in 1995 for Florida’s other team, the Orlando Magic. It’s amazing because Battier is coming off career lows for field goal percentage as well as 3-point percentage, but he has absolutely been Miami’s x-factor this series. I’m sure NYBobby is thrilled with my shout out for Shane based solely on the fact that I am a UNC Tar Heels supporter, while he goes for their rivals the Duke Blue Devils, Battier’s alma mater.
Maybe the reason that the Thunder lost isn’t because Miami’s “Big 3” got their shit together, or because James Harden was building a house with his bricks last night, or because Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra has a striking resemblance to a Tarsier Monkey from his native lands of the Philippines (I don’t know why I feel the need to trash him, but I do). Maybe the reason the Thunder lost is based solely upon their lack of execution when it comes to basketball fundamentals. OKC shot an out-of-character 15-24 from the foul line and committed 6 fourth quarter turnovers. They also finished the game with a minuscule 11 assists on 33 field goals made. While the Thunder went most of the season lacking an assist man, they were also the best foul shooting team and they committed the second fewest turnovers, so these two stats are inexcusable. If OKC has any hope of making it out of Miami alive then they better get their act together. And maybe Scott Brooks shouldn’t ever have his two best players, Westbrook and Durant, on the bench for the same time for 5 minutes like he did at the end of the third quarter where Miami made their comeback.
P.S. NBA referees please know that it is acceptable to call fouls on Lebron James!
Last night’s game 4 of the Western Conference Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder was a great one. It was a game filled with precision shooting and high energy on both ends of the floor. Kevin Durant’s fourth quarter explosion, where he had 18 of his 36 points, helped lead the Thunder to a 109-103 victory. Tim Duncan’s running hook shot over the Thunders Kendrick Perkins, brought the Spurs within 4 points with just under 6 minutes to play in the game. OKC coach, Scott Brooks, called an immediate timeout and that’s when a fire was lit under Durant’s ass. The “Durantula” came out of the timeout with a look in his eyes that let the Oklahoma faithful know that he had the game under control. Kevin took over the fourth with a few pull up jumpers, followed by a couple of drives to the hoop, a late game “and 1″ and a game clinching dish to James Harden for a 3-pointer.”I just want to be calm and composed and poised in those situations and make the right basketball play,” Durant said. “I just try to calm down and go with my instincts.”
Even with Durant’s 36, the Thunder needed a lot more offensive help with their second and third leading scorers, Westbrook and Harden, struggling throughout the game. James Harden and Russel Westbrook shot a combined 6 of 23 for a pathetic total of 18 points. Durant’s offensive help came from the two most unlikely sources on the court. Defensive specialist, Serge Ibaka, or as he is now known, Serge I’Block’a, set a career high in points with 26. The most impressive thing about Serge’s play was his flawless jump shooting. Ibaka shot a perfect 11 for 11 from the field and 4 for 4 from the foul line, while not missing a beat on the defensive end with his average 3 blocks. The Thunder’s other Center, Kendrick Perkins, had his best career playoff game for the Thunder with 15 points and 9 boards while shooting an impressive 7 for 9 from the field.
The Spurs two best players, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, both had below average games. While Parker kept OKC’s superstars Russel Westbrook and James Harden at bay on the defensive end, he could not make anything positive happen on the offensive side. Tony shot a lackluster 5 for 15 from the field and accumulated his worst overall stats of the 2012 playoffs with 12 points and only 4 assists. Duncan on the other hand, had a very good offensive output for the Spurs with 21 points and 8 rebounds on 9 of 17 shooting. Duncan’s issues came on the other end where he couldn’t find a way to stop Ibaka or Perkins.
With Oklahoma’s new-found offensive weapons, what will the Spurs do to avoid being only the 15th team in NBA history to lose a best-of-seven series after being up 2-0? Luckily for San Antonio they have arguably one of the greatest coaches ever in Gregg Popovich. I have no doubt that the Spurs will pick up a game 5 victory on their home court Monday night.
Down by nine and slowly fading into oblivion, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called a time out and sat his team down and asked them to do one thing…”get nasty!”
“I said that?” Popovich said afterward. “The heat of the game, stuff comes up,” Popovich said. “So I talked to them about they’ve got to get a little bit uglier, get a little more nasty, play with more fiber and take it to these guys. Meaning you have to drive it, you have to shoot it.”
Well, the talk seemed to work and the Spurs went on a huge offensive outburst with 39 fourth quarter and took a 1-0 series lead against the Oklahoma City Thunder with a 101-98 win in San Antonio Sunday night. It was a back-and-forth battle all game long and every star found their moment to shine. The Thunder’s “Big Three,” Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and sixth man of the year James Harden, were a combined 5 for 21 from the field at one point in the first half and it looked as if the pressure of the big stage was getting to them. The three of them seemed to get their act together and finished the game shooting 17 of 36 for a total of 63 points collectively.
The problem is that when you are playing a team with the Championship pedigree that the San Antonio Spurs possess, you are not allotted a half of a game to get your shit together. Although Tony Parker and Tim Duncan have carried the Spurs for most of the season, San Antonio had to look elsewhere to close out the game. Parker struggled mightily from the get go and finished with a respectable 18 points, 6 assists and 8 rebounds on 6-15 shooting. Parker’s PIC (Partner in Crime), big Timmy, matched Parker’s 6-15 FG% while only bringing in 16 points and 11 boards. Both of these starting lineups are fantastic on a lot of levels, but the one thing that will determine how this series will end up are the teams benches.
One of the most intriguing match-ups of this series was slated to be the battle of the 2 best sixth men in the game, James Harden and Manu Ginobili. Game 1 did not disappoint! During the three regular season match-ups between these two juggernaut teams, Manu Ginobili was sidelined with injuries and never had a chance to face the Thunder, so in his first game against them this season he made sure they knew what he could do. Manu played in most of the second half and was the Spurs leading scorer with 26 points on an impressive 9-14 shooting and 5 of 5 from the line. As each team went shot for shot through the fourth quarter, Ginobili took the ball with a little over 3 minutes left and drove to the hole. He drew a foul from his counterpart Harden and made the basket. That was the point where anyone watching new that the Spurs had taken game 1 as Ginobili tried to do his best Tiger Woods fist pump impression to electrify the crowd. The Spurs bench was extremely remarkable by not only outscoring the Thunder’s bench, OKC 37 SAS 52, but outscoring their own starting lineup, 52 to 49.
Game 1 was a gem and I expect nothing less for the entirety of this series. For OKC to stand a chance they are going to have to find a way to slow down the leagues highest scoring team. If the Spurs want to continue winning as they have been for 19 straight games dating back to the regular season, then all they have to do is what Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich says and “Get Nasty!”