Wheels Down in Istanbul

ISTANBUL – The U.S. National Team has arrived in Istanbul for the 2010 FIBA World Championship. While most of the other medal contenders will play their preliminary games in other locations around Turkey, the U.S. will make Istanbul their home until the close of the World Championship. So after seven days in New York, six days in Madrid, and three in Athens, they can finally settle in.

After Wednesday’s big win over Greece, the team is going through a light workout Thursday night. On Friday afternoon, they will practice at the Abdi Ipekci Arena, where their preliminary games will be played. Then they’ll play their first real game on Saturday (12 p.m. ET, ESPN Classic) against Croatia.

Istanbul is seven hours ahead of Eastern time, so that’s a 7 p.m. start locally. It’s the middle game of the three-game slate in Istanbul.

***

I sat down for a few minutes with USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo on Thursday afternoon to get his assessment of how things went on the tour of Madrid and Athens.

“We’ve made a lot of progress,” Colangelo said. “First of all, now that the roster is set, that’s one major thing out of the way, more so for the players who were wondering what their status was. It’s just important to get to that final roster cut, and we did. And it worked out in a very positive way in every respect.

“No. 2, we’re creating the identity that we were seeking.”

You know the identity by now. Great defense that leads to transition and great guard play.

In their five exhibition games (including the closed scrimmage vs. China), the U.S. has allowed their opponents to shoot just 37.6 percent from the field, and to score just 77.6 points per 100 possessions. That’s real good.

***

Of course, Colangelo knows that these guys ain’t seen nothing yet. And it has definitely been communicated to the players that elimination games against Spain or Greece would probably be nothing like the games they played this past week.

“We’re pleased with where we are,” he said, “but as far as we’re concerned, we’re 0-0.”

But Colangelo is glad that he put together a tougher exhibition schedule than this team had in 2006.

“It couldn’t have been any better,” he said. “Quite honestly, we wish everyone [for the opponents] would have been healthy.”

***

Trivia: Just two U.S. players averaged double-figures in scoring in their five exhibition games (including the closed scrimmage vs. China). They were Kevin Durant (16.6 points per game) and …

Eric Gordon.

Gordon averaged 10.0 points in the five exhibition games. He didn’t score against Spain, but had 15 points against China, eight against France, nine against Lithuania and 18 against Greece.

Colangelo was effusive with his praise for the Clippers’ guard, but won’t call Gordon’s play a surprise.

“I’m not going to say he’s a surprise,” Colangelo said. “What I’m going to say is we’re really pleased with the way he’s playing. And he’s to a point now where he takes a shot, we expect it to go down. It’s not a question in our minds. There are very few players playing on any level where you feel if they’ve got the ball, they’re going to score. He’s one of them.

“He’s a pure shooter, just needs a little bit of room. He’s quick. The other thing is his body type is perfect for international play. Big and strong.”

***

We thought going in that rebounding would be the No. 1 concern for the U.S. But they rebounded 81.4 percent of their opponents’ misses in the five exhibition games, pretty much putting that concern to rest.

Instead, I think three other concerns have emerged…

1. Interior defense, particularly against the pick-and-roll. Kostas Tsartsaris was able to score pretty easily (he had 24 points on 9-for-12 shooting) against Lamar Odom on Wednesday. And by picking up four fouls in less than 11 minutes of action, Tyson Chandler wasn’t much help.

2. 3-point shooting. They connected on just 37 of their 113 threes (32.7 percent) in the five games. Almost half of the threes were made by Eric Gordon (10-for-23) and Chauncey Billups (8-for-18). The rest of the team shot 19-for-72 (26.4 percent).

3. Turnovers. They had 17 of them against Greece and averaged 15.8 in their five exhibition games. But by my count, seven of the 17 came in the fourth quarter on Wednesday, when Stephen Curry spent most of the period at the point. And it’s doubtful that Curry will play any meaningful minutes at the point going forward.

***

Tough news for Argentina: After doctors examined his injured left ankle, the Sixers advised Andres Nocioni that he should withdraw from the World Championship. With Nocioni healthy, Argentina would have had one of the two or three best lineups in the tournament. Now, they’re depth is even worse than it was.

***

Random note: Rajon Rondo averaged more than twice as many assists per 40 minutes (12.6) as anyone else on the roster. Derrick Rose was next with 4.9 assists per 40.

***

With thanks to @albriasan, here’s a rundown of how the 24 teams in the World Championship did in exhibition play. It confirms my guess that the U.S. was the only team not to lose a game.

Of course, no team played fewer exhibition games than the Americans. If they went undefeated playing as many games as Jordan did, that would be really impressive.

***

Turkish lesson of the day: Lütfen daha yavaş konuşun = Please speak more slowly.

***

More USA Basketball coverage: Analysis | Blog

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

37 Comments

  1. Nate says:

    Some of you people really have a low basketball I.Q. I Heard a dude say stephen Curry should play point yur crazy he’s kinda sloppy with the ball and not strong enough he better off at the 2 guard and these rondo vs rose debate need to stop Rose is Clearly the better pg NOW were not talkin about playoffs 2 years ago Rose rookie season were talkin about now coach K realized against lithuana starting rondo is not a great idea he can’t hold on to the ball rose can proved it against greece withe 0 turnovers rondo can’t shoot free throws Rose Can proved it against spain Rondo really can’t shoot mid range or a threes Rose can proved it against greece so ask yourself seriously take out the beging a fan of Rose and rondo who really is a better pg and also the only thing rondo had that Rose didn’t is being a great defender but Coach K has turned Rose into his Best Pressure Guard so I think I just killed all rose vs rondo debates

    • RJ says:

      Ok Rose v. Rondo

      1. Rose is bigger faster and more athletic……and has a better J

      2. Rondo is a better passer, rebounder and on ball defender

      3. Rondo is more mature (thanks to the big 3 and Doc)

      For the international game I’d say Rose because Rondo can’t shoot, but All-Around game has to be Rondo. Rondo can get 11 boards with Perkins, Wallace and KG all going for the same rebounds. Rondo is pass first which is what every GREAT point guard is (Magic, Stockton, Kidd, CP3, Deron). Rose is a scoring point guard and there has not ever been a Hall of Fame “Scoring PG” unless you include AI who played the 2 during his best years. The thing is that Rose will be better than Rondo soon, but today Rondo gives you more of a well rounded stat line because of HOW he plays. Rose is not diving on the floor for loose balls and forcing turnovers and rebounding and assisting on Rondo’s level. Actually the only thing Rose can do better than Rondo is score right now. So from a basketball IQ perspective I’d rather have a PG that is pass first, will rebound, and defend as opposed to a scorer running my team.

  2. RJ says:

    The USA has nothing to prove from a basketball perspective. We have at least 10 guys from here currently in the NBA better than anyone that any other country has ever produced in their history. Coach K is the best basketball coach in the world and the only name that can even challenge that is Phil Jackson. Whether USA wins or not we are the best in basketball period. Imagine in 2012 a roster of: LBJ, Wade, Melo, Durant, Dwight, Amare, Bosh, CP3, Deron, Rose, Kobe and maybe Brandon Roy or Blake Griffin.

    That being said…..

    1. USA will win the World Championships because they have a better coach than any other team in the tournament, This team looks and plays like a Duke team…..International Guards are not prepared for the pressure Coach K teams put on the ball.

    2. USA is to athletic for international teams…..just to fast…..they are quicker than EVERY team at every position

    3. USA has the best player in the tournament: KEVIN DURANT is the only unstoppable player in the tournament

    Spain is a joke. The only thing they have on the USA team is that they have been playing together longer. I can name 15 point guards better than Rubio (Rondo, Rose, CP3, Deron, Jennings, Wall, Nash, Kidd, Baron Davis, Billups, Curry, Evans, Nelson, Westbrook and Collison) and 15 shooting guards better than Fernandez (Kobe, Wade, Roy, Johnson, Allen, JR Smith, Kevin Martin, Vince Carter, Monte Evans, Eric Gordon, T-Mac, Steven Jackson, Michael Redd, OJ Mayo and Evan Turner)

    Please stop disrespecting USA basketball by comparing countries whose best players are not even close to being better than our best players.

  3. Rodney says:

    I dont like the shot he took at stephen curry, stephen curry is the best point they got. I’m not saying he’s better then the other guys he’s just more of a point, and way smarter. Honestly he should be starting with D. rose at the 2 two gaurd.

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/RoDney-Pickett/136027683081930

  4. Jordan says:

    If Javale McGee can be added at the last minute, why not bring along someone like Al Horford or Joakim Noah? McGee played well in summer league, thats nothing.

  5. angelo says:

    i think team USA will win again another championshp.
    eventhough they dont have their big stars to play, they are more focussed
    on this team which can lead to a perfect execution of plays. they can see their weakness easily and turn
    it into one of their strengths to achieve their goal!

  6. tenki says:

    Rondo cut himself. Can’t shoot free throws. C’ant shoot from the field. Can’t take care of the ball.

    The reason why he led the team in assists per 40 minutes.

    The reason why he led the team in turnovers.

  7. Scott says:

    y didnt eric gordon get MVP of this game ? Thats crazy … if kevin durant had the most points he would have gotten mvp .. smh … Its like they dont want to give him an trophy

    • T says:

      I wasn’t surprised Rose got the MVP… It’s the same old story since Vegas… EJ is being slept on. Rose played very well, but EJ was CLEARLY the MVP, yet the voters picked Rose… The more popular player.

  8. Ronald D. 52nge says:

    Eric Gordon make your best this World Championship and even this season because Blake Griffin is BACK… need to level-up to meet new requirements.. New Game Style.. Hope you will reach Playoffs this season..
    Gold For USA, Silver for Spain….

  9. Wayne says:

    USA 3PT% would better if the SFs (AI, Gay, Granger) weren’t so trigger happy.

  10. Tim says:

    I have liked what I’ve seen so far out of this team. They seem to be trying to play together. The middle is a concern but, if they continue to be active with hands on the wings and dial in from long distance could produce blowouts all the way through. I’m looking forward to the USA winning this tournament.

  11. jared says:

    Shut up about the Rondo thing already, what’s done is done I love the guys game but lets face he cant shoot and thats not good for fiba play lets move on.

  12. John says:

    Eric Gordon = Baller……Absolutely love his game

    • Ryan says:

      Exactly, EJ is quite but his game speaks louder than words. He plays the game the right way. He doesn’t force anything and he picks and chooses when to attack the defense. His on ball defense has been great for Team USA as well. I can’t believe so many members of the media thought he would be one of the first cuts in Vegas. Then when they started saying it was Gordon or Curry for the last spot on the team just days ago, I knew the media was way off. Gordon and Curry are two of the most important players coming off the bench for Team USA. The team needs their shooting and other basketball skills.

  13. mike says:

    im happy for eric gordan,he has gone thru alot from his playing days at IU(my old stumping ground) I thought he came out to early,but he seem to have found his game. This kid can shoot the three it appears, but im more impressed with his physical play driving to the basket …good upper body strength. I think he just played his was on this team and thanks for coach K for judging talent,and Ill say this kinda play will only help each and every player get better and in turn will only help the game get better over-all.

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  15. Don says:

    Rondo average twice as much assist as anyone on the team PER 48, and probably three times as many turnovers..

  16. T says:

    It’s a good thing Eric Gordon didn’t get cut, huh Schuhmann?

  17. tr3vmain3 says:

    well there is less turn overs now without rondo especially playin different style playin, he will return though down the road and be a key piece for victory just wait, And Eric Gordon is a bit of a surprise actually doing well he is a pure shooter but just a suprise, But what about Granger he needs more time he is key to success him and KD on the floor should work

  18. kam_soluusar says:

    If Rondo had a Jumpshot, which we all know he doesn’t, (probably his only flaw) then he would be with the team still. I agree that the USA lacks a true centre, and this will hurt. However if the US keeps a strong transition game, it should minimise the damage. I won’t be arrogant, and predict Gold for anyone. The gold is won, not awarded. Given the USA’s past in the World Championships, they will be hard pressed to win the gold, and will face some seriously stiff competition.

    Go Aussies.

  19. Miami Heat says:

    Team USA better win the Gold Medal!

  20. Ryan says:

    Eric Gordon is playing great ball for Team USA. Maybe NBA fans will pay attention to him now that he has some exposure with Team USA. Gordon is an underrated player and sadly many fans don’t know who he is b/c he is on the Clippers. I am glad Eric EJ Gordon is finally getting the well deserved media attention he deserves.

    Go Team USA!

    • Alex says:

      I agree hes my favorite clipper i cant wait to see him when the season starts. All of these young players will obviously gain a lot of experience from this and it should show at the beginning of the season. I think EJ is gonna have a breakout year

  21. Robbie J says:

    I expect them to win gold becuase of their D. Chandler and LO will have to stay outta foul trouble.

  22. Kosras says:

    John is on the money here. inside defense is key. if the 3rd center of a team scores 24 EASY points on you, what will the 1st center score? Pick-n-Roll is the bread-n-butter for European coaches. They live and die by it. Don’t forget that in 2006 semi, Greece scored around 30-40 of the 101 points with the Pick. Sure, they bombed away from the 3 point line, but they set the pace in the paint. This WILL happen again. The forwards have to pick it up in low post D if Team US wants any legitimate chances on gold

  23. marc gonzalez says:

    the 1st guy who wrote something doesnt know what in the woeld he’s talking about.. rasheed wallace, shaq??? come on, you gotta still b living in the 90′s. I’ve seen every scrimmage theyve played and obviously inside- defense is a problem. Might be their only problem. i still see USA winning the the tourny just because theyve really stepped up their perimeter defense, play the zone and man-to-man very well, and their offense. this is definetly not the best team we’ve had. maybe the 4th best US team that ive seen since the 90′s. (92′, 08′, 96′ are better). Im sure if Amare Staudimire, David Lee and Brooke Lopez were Healthy at least 2 of the them wouldve made it. that means no Chandler and no Odom. with amare and d LEE this tourny woulda been over before at started. i think that Kevin Love has done a great job when hes been in the game. id like to see more kevin love when the tourny starts and im sure we will. He scores in the paint, he plays great defense, he passes very well, and he rebounds GREAT on the defense AND offensive boards. westbrook is playing well but i expect more from him. Ill tell you what though, if everyone plays in 2012 it could be the best USA team of all-time. but more than likely the 2nd best of all-time. ( LBJ, Wade, Melo, cp3,deron Williams, derick rose, Bosh, D howard, Durant, Amare, Kobe, and 1 GREAT shooter. Example: Stephen Curry, OR another PURE ATHLETE thats explosive. Example: Rudy Gay, Andre Igudoua.)

  24. brian says:

    really? shaq and wallace are fossils

  25. jared says:

    Eric Gordon has been great, good article.

  26. jaye says:

    i don’t blame rondo for going home…. it seems that what ever he does… he’s going to be one of those players that they pull out the oft repeated cliche’s on…. “he can’t do this”… “he can’t do that”… “his sox are too short”… i feel sorry when rose meets rondo in the regular season… rondo is going to go out of his way to prove a point…

  27. QuestionMark says:

    Rondo averaged 12.9 assists.. thats gonna hurt the team bad.. Rose in the season doesnt average that much.. so closest i see is Billups maybe averaging 8 or 9.. Rondo was great for the team.. and i think they would win gold if he was in..but they need a good defending and rebounding C.. like Dwight Howard.. so opposing players cant score in the paint.. I dont think this team is ready defensively but offensively they got some power, like Durant, Billups, Curry, Rose, Gay but none of them are great at defense

  28. kevinsmooth says:

    the usa team will not win gold they ll use in the semi finals the interior defemse is shaky there should of added a big tall banger for the interior such as shaquille oneal, r. wallence or dwight howard a banger

    • kevinsaretard says:

      Kevin, please learn English. In order for anyone to understand you, we need to be able to read what you write.

    • McKinley says:

      Team USA will win the gold. Granted this is not our best team. But alot of the international stars are not playing either. They have a true Superstar in Kevin Durant. Lamar Odom and Chanuncy Billups have both won championships. I am impressed by how well the team plays .