World Championship Eve

ISTANBUL – Day 2 in Turkey. And with Game 1 of the World Championship just 24 hours away, the U.S. National Team had a light, no-contact practice at the Abdi Ipekci Arena. They went over their offense and defense and then got in some shooting.

Rudy Gay: “Today, we really got into detail. We were trying to go over our sets and make sure when we go into the real games that we know what we are doing.”

Croatia should provide a decent test for the U.S. on Saturday (Noon ET, ESPN Classic). They finished sixth at last year’s Eurobasket even though they were missing two of their most talented players, Marko Tomas and Bojan Bogdanovic, a 21 year old draft prospect on the wing.

NBA fans should remember point guards Roko Ukic (85 games with the Raptors and Bucks) and Zoran Planinic (three seasons with the Nets), who can both get into the lane and make plays. Tomas will likely be their top scorer for the tournament, but big man Ante Tomic will be the guy that the U.S. will have to worry most about.

Tomic, who was drafted in the second round by the Jazz in 2008, is 7-foot-2 and has solid offensive skills, but he’s not too strong. A Tomic-Lamar Odom matchup could be fascinating to watch.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski on Croatia: “We have a lot of respect for them. Their guard play is outstanding. Ukic is one of the best international guards and (Marko) Popovic is just a veteran. There size is a concern, they have five guys who were 6-11 or above so we don’t have as big of team. They have a rich tradition and we have a lot of respect for who they are.”

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Need a preview of the World Championship? Here’s a written version and here’s a video version…

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Saturday’s game of the day looks to be the Russia-Puerto Rico matchup in Ankara at 11:30 a.m. ET, which could decide third and fourth place in Group C.

NBA TV will have Greece-China at 9 a.m. ET and France-Spain at 2 p.m. ET. If you’re in the U.S., you can watch every game on ESPN3. Elsewhere, you can watch them at fibatv.com.

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The U.S. team had a three-car police escort to practice today. It wasn’t quite the experience the 2008 team had in Shanghai (when police blocked every entrance to the highway for several miles on the way to the airport), but a three-car escort for practice is still impressive.

Of course, the police escort took the long way to the arena.

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The Anti-Atkins Diet.

After practice, I went with the NBA Entertainment crew for an authentic Turkish family-style lunch, which was terrific.

If you’re on the Atkins diet, Istanbul is not the place for you. The meal started out with big plates of bread (round rolls with seeds) and a variety of sauces and concoctions for you to eat the bread with (see the photo to the right). Great stuff.

And then came the main course, plates of four different types of meat (beef, spicy beef, chicken and pork), served with peppers, rice and fries.

Most of us in the group are passing on dinner tonight, because lunch was so filling.

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Remember the beard-growing contest a few years ago between DeShawn Stevenson and Drew Gooden? I think Rudy Gay and Andre Iguodala are doing something similar, except with the hair on top of their heads. Both are letting it grow out this summer, but I think Rudy is winning.

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In case you missed it yesterday, FIBA handed out suspensions for the Greece-Serbia brawl. Nenad Krstic (Serbia) got three games, while Milos Teodosic (Serbia), Antonis Fotsis (Greece) and Sofoklis Schortsanitis (Greece) got two games each.

Both teams should be able to withstand the suspensions fairly easily. Serbia’s first three games are against Angola, Germany and Jordan, the three weakest teams in Group A. Greece’s first two games are against China and Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is tough, but their best players are in the backcourt, so the absences of their two big men shouldn’t hurt too much.

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Turkish lesson of the day: Anlamıyorum = I don’t understand.

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

13 Comments

  1. lamp says:

    Hello Pat,See what blurry vision does for you? I am so sorry for misken your guest blogger for you!Hope you are felling better!

  2. TEAM says:

    I Agree with RJ. Team USA has the best players but other countries has the better team. To win the Gold medal, you have to be the perfect team. Players win ballgames but teams win championships. I think talent alone is not enough just like team USA in 2006

  3. N1ck says:

    Much respect for the USA team from Croatia.
    Remember the 92′ and the original Dream Team?
    We had our own back then with Kukoč, Rađa and Mozart Petrović…
    Nowadays we’re just average… But we’ll try to put on a fight (in sports sense offcourse ;)
    Anyways, excited to see this USA team, Durant and Rose, myman Chauncey…
    Like it even better without LeBron, Kobe etc, cause I hate that superstar thing…
    Hard teamwork and pride is my thing.
    Wishing you guys gold. And don’t be too hard on us, we’re just a little Croatia team. ;)

  4. tenki says:

    yo RJ, check this out: either you’ve slept with the 15 point guards you mentioned, or you were heartbroken by ricky rubio. this guy’s got skills, man! don’t you know he played pro ball at age 14? who the hell in the NBA got the guts to have his name drafted at that age? and steve nash is a canadian, for your information. he may be better than rubio, but what does he have in the NBA? 2 MVP’s and that’s it! NO RINGS!!! i hate to ruin your patriotism, but you have to understand the game first before you can get to appreciate all the USA basketball team’s talents. if you’re already watching, you have to watch more.

    • RJ says:

      First of all I can actually hoop…..and so let’s not talk basketball IQ….I played PG on a Division I team for 4 years…..What I am saying is that the NBA is to competitive for a 14 yearold to play…..There is not another league in the World that can compete with the NBA pound for pound…..you have to realize that in the inner cities of the USA basketball is not just a game…..it is a culture…..Throughout History the USA has produced the best basketball players the world has ever seen…..my arguement is that we produce the best basketball players in the world and that can’t be disputed….

  5. J says:

    Nice Breakdown, I like to know who the best players on the other teams are and what experience they have.

    The USA has a lot to prove in this championship! The USA did not take their best team, yet still expect to win. That is a lot of pressure. If these players don’t win will the type of players who sat out this time not do so next time? If so then there is is a lot riding on this. I think a lot of people know matter where they are would agree the USA is the favorite, so doesn’t that mean it would be one of the biggest upsets if they lose? Take into account that the rest of the teams besides the US think this championship is more important that the olympics and The USA has undoubtably the most pressure and the most to play for out of everyone.

    • C says:

      Two things. First, we have to state, that athleticism is not everything basketball is all about. It is not the quickest, that is the league MVp, and it is not the highest vertical leaper, that is the Finals MVP. Besides that U need b-ball IQ, TEAM effort – both offensively and defensively – and in a FIBA competition, shooting skills. Imho, on the US roster, the bball IQ only stands for Chauncey and Stephen Curry, Team defense and offenseain’t no NBA thing, except for the 2004 Champion Pistons, Gregg Popovich’s Spurs, and the Celtics from 08-10. As for the sharp shooting: Curry, Granger, Durant and Billups might be able to knock down one or two big shots, but the other 8 are ineffective – compared to other rosters – outside a 15-18 foot zone. Nevertheless, Team USA can be World Champions, but it won’t be a stroll in the park.

      Second, to mention the best guys from every team would take a damn long list. Instead here’s a list, whom one should watch out for, if not familiar with European b-ball.
      The supsended serbian, MILOSH TEODOSICH in my opinion should play overseas, having been gifted with all the above mentioned qualities, INCLUDING athleticism. Will not loose a footrace to no Team USA small guy, maybe except for Rose, who is fastest among his own ones.
      The spanish team U all know, i think Marc Gasol is going to have his breakout tournament this summer. And Juan Carlos Navarro – ex-Grizzly – can find his way around in FIBA conditions.
      Slovenia played badly during friendly games, but Goran Dragic could have the same breakthrough in the international scene, as the younger Gasol brother.
      Greece will play a slow-tempo, control game as usual – just like the Croatians and the Serbians – with Vassilios SPANOULIS and Dimitris DIAMANTIDIS as the two guards.
      Turkey’s greatest weapon might be Hedo Turkoglu and his short year in the NBA last season. With him rested, everything is possible. And the opposite of it too.
      Lithuania is not as it was back in the 90′s, the new generation is far off from the niveau, Sabonis and the others represented, although their constant 3-point threat might hurt their opponents once in a while.
      France and Germany – without their greatest stars, TP9 and Dirk – are going to be weak, though the German federation should recieve an applause, as the got the wildcard spot by garantueein FIBA, Nowitzki will be there in Turkey… He ain’t, but the Germans are.
      I almost forgot Russia: AK47 won’t be there on the WCH, but expect David Blatt’s team to fight. Other than that, expect nothing

  6. 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.

    • ls says:

      ha ha ha u have no idea what u r talking about who won in 2002 fiba comp in your own country the usa not the nba stars they finished what 6th so please have some respect for world compitition the ball is round and can go either way

      • 3rdWiseMan says:

        Rj, lets not be ignorant. The United States always puts out the best team in international play, but somehow chokes when the pressure is on. What we were able to do in the Olympics was excepted. The US team is stacked in althleticism; all your points are valid. But dont be quick to just throw out the competion. I have the US winning against Spain , but it wont be a clobbering. The US team proved they could play beating Spain in an exhibition, but Spain shot >40% and almost won. The Us has a solid core, but has to prove they are not like the past FIBA teams who are the best on paper, but cant produce when the time comes, like when they lost to Greece & Spain. And Ricky Rubio is is a crafty point gaurd a la Steve Nash/ John Stockton’ dont throw him under the bus, unless you watch him as often as you watch the other 15 point guards you named.

    • unknown says:

      RJ, you are the one disrespecting basketball.Usa always believe they are the best and send second class basketball player in this tournament.They send the dream team in 2006 and they still lost.That was the ultimate humilation for usa.So now fiba has became even more famous than the olympics.The olympics only have the biggest respect when michael jordan, larry bird and magic johnson played in the dream team, then olympics game became famous.The whole world wanted to see those guys win.Being beaten by legends is the greastest feeling a team of that era could have.But today is diferent.We see a lot of basketball playing for the love of the money.17 years old and you can have 10 million dollars.Do we really wanna get beaten by this young less talented rich kids????To tell you the truth the oficial basketball world championship is the fiba tournament.Remember when usa goes to play in the olympics only win one gold medal in basketball.Why a group gymnast win 8 medals in one round??Is team usa happy winning one gold medal over 8 medal?China won more gold than anyone.But now in the fiba is diferent.There is only one medal and one mvp throphy nothing more.This is the old real basketball we people love to see.A lot of contact,more physical, team work and no traveling allowed.I’m not rooting for spain neither for usa but I believe everybody in this tournament have the chance to beat both spain and usa.If usa are the best they have to go and prove it.

    • RJ says:

      Are you serious……name a player from any country better than LBJ or Kobe or Wade or a point guard better than CP3 or Deron Williams or Rose? or a small forward better than Melo or Durant….I am not disrespecting he World I am being realistic…..THE BEST PLAYERS IN THE WORLD ARE FROM THE USA……The top 10 best players in the world are from here….Gasol, Dirk, Yao and Nash are the only players worth mentioning that are not from the US……everyone else is average at best….AND Coach K and Phil Jackson are second to none but one another…..The USA has nothing to prove because we produce the BEST players….PERIOD….that can’t be disputed….and even without Kobe, Wade, LBJ, Melo, Dwight, CP3, Deron and the rest of the boys we will win this tournament……THE BEST PLAYERS IN THE WORLD ARE FROM THE USA period…..that’s why Rubio stayed in Spain because he is a back up at best on a playoff team in the NBA…..

      • 3rdWiseMan says:

        You aren’t seeing the point. The US has (in total) the best players in the world; no country can come close. You fail to realize that the US has put out the best players before, and lost. The US has to PROVE THAT THEY CAN PLAY AS A TEAM. Thats what we are trying to tell you. The US would win and one-on-one game, but FIBA is 5-on-5. You can put out the best 12 PLAYERS in the world, but if they can’t play together and win, then they arent the best TEAM. But as I said before, I have the US winning; the pride from winning the Olympic gold and and their skill will fuel them.