Elveda from Istanbul

ISTANBUL — If you were just looking for a little competitive basketball to tide you over until the NBA and European seasons begin, the 2010 FIBA World Championship more than delivered. We had late-game drama, brilliant individual performances, beautiful teamwork, and great basketball through and through.

Best of all, we had a gold medal game that put a young and small American team against a huge Turkey squad and their 15,000 ridiculously loud fans.

And the U.S. National Team answered all the questions with an impressive 81-64 victory over the hosts, who may have run out of gas after Saturday’s ridiculously thrilling victory over Serbia.

All the credit goes to Mike Krzyzewski and his team though. As I wrote in my story, the effort on defense and on the boards was incredible. This was for the gold medal and those guys came with more energy than they’d had in any of their previous eight games.

Heading into the game, there were probably some worries that Kevin Durant, after scoring 71 points on 25-for-44 shooting over the last two games, might have an off night. But KD carried them offensively once again, earning that MVP trophy that he was ready to concede to Luis Scola a few days ago.

Lamar Odom also had another big game in a big spot, recording his second straight double-double. And Russell Westbrook brought ridiculous energy and athleticism. Westbrook was thought to be on the roster bubble a few times in training camp, but he turned out to be the guy that best represented the identity of this team: fast, athletic and aggressive defensively.

***

Turkey was a fantastic host. Though it would have been nice to visit one of the other three pool play cities, I was happy to spend my 2 1/2 weeks in Istanbul, a beautiful city with much to see and do. The traffic sucked (I joked with some people that Istanbul’s top export is exhaust fumes), but every other aspect of the trip was fantastic.

Well, except for the untimely death of my laptop on Sunday morning, causing me much frustration. Fortunately, I was able to borrow a computer to write my story and post this blog. But unfortunately, I wasn’t able to accompany this text with some photos from my trip, because they were lost in the crash.

As beautiful as the sights of Istanbul are, it was equally enjoyable for me, as a basketball nut, to witness the atmosphere inside the Sinan Erdem Arena for every game that Turkey played. The reaction of the crowd to Kerem Tunceri’s game-winning layup on Saturday is something I’ll never forget. And I honestly got chills every time “12 Giant Men” or the Turkish national anthem was sung by the 15,000 strong.

***

Lithuania Wins Bronze

Before the USA-Turkey finale, Lithuania beat Serbia, 99-88 to capture the bronze medal.

The key sequence came in the second quarter, when Lithuania used a 14-4 run to turn a three-point lead into a 13-point cushion. The run included four straight three-point possessions and two straight threes from Linas Kleiza.

After Andre Iguodala shut him down on Saturday, Kleiza broke out for 33 points on Sunday, including 12 in that pivotal second quarter. Nenad Krstic struggled for Serbia, finishing with just five points on 2-for-7 from the field.

Lithuania came here with a young team, and they definitely overachieved, going 8-1, with their only loss coming at the hands of the U.S. They will host next year’s European Championship, certainly taking some momentum from this tournament into that one.

***

Argentina Takes Fifth

In the afternoon, Argentina outlasted Spain, 86-81 to finish fifth. Spain came all the way back from being down 25 in the middle of the third quarter to tie the game with two minutes left in the fourth. But they missed on a couple of opportunities to take the lead and scored just one point in their final five possessions.

Pablo Prigioni hit the dagger for Argentina, who was led by 27 points from Carlos Delfino and 22 from Scola. Rudy Fernandez led all scorers with 31 points on 11-for-13 shooting.

***

All-Tournament Team

Kevin Durant (USA), Linas Kleiza (LTU), Luis Scola (ARG), Milos Teodosic (SER), Hedo Turkoglu (TUR)

***

So, Elveda (I think and hope that means “goodbye”) from Istanbul. It’s been a great trip and I hope to be back here again sometime down the line. If you’ve got any questions or comments, please send an e-mail via the link below.

***

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.

52 Comments

  1. uha1 says:

    congrats US team!
    this was the most emotional championship I have ever watched!

  2. MikeD says:

    My big congrats to Team USA for winning the Gold in the 2010 WC despite against all odds! This team played with heart to get the job done. They prove me wrong because I thought it was young, small, inexperienced, and been together for 6 weeks. You can’t measure success with height but you can measure success in the belief and desire to win!

  3. siri says:

    This year Team USA of FIBA 2010 are the champions of the world!

  4. David says:

    Everyone can say and come up of whatever scenarios they can as to what would’ve happened at the World Championships if a certain team was in a certain group. The fact remains….the USA are the WORLD CHAMPIONS! It was won fair and square, it was with such a margin that no one is going to come back and try to complain about a last second missed call that would have changed things. Torkoglu was lucky not to have been tossed out of the game for placing his arm on Chandler’s neck. All of you who are going to try and point out that he was reacting to what Chandler had done, you can stop right there, because if the US players felt inclined to react the same way as Hego to every hacking they had been getting from the Turkish team, it would have been a very long game. KD was at one time literally bulldozed that he had to stay down for a while to get his wind back, no US team member reacted, they just went on with their game. It was that tough mentality and desire to not let the adversity get the best of them, even when it was clear that they had swipped the ball cleanly, but somehow a referee found a way to call it a foul, they never lot themselves. Turkish players were getting into the refs’ faces, but you rarely so much of that from the US players, because they knew what needed to be done, they weren’t going to have to rely on the officials. They were the only ones who were responsible for their own destiny.

    • Law064 says:

      @MD GO JUMP OFF A SCYSCRAPER!!!!!!! Lithuania has no such team IDIOT. You kept posting that Lithuania was going to beat the US. Go kill yourself or stop posting your crap about the bronze winning Lithuania team. The US would’ve won this tournament in any bracket. They were undefeated and earned whatever bracket they were in. They still played great and KD was a monster. Hat’s off to the US. Turkey,Lith,Serbia all had a great showing. If your talking about robbed then the Bears VS. Lions was robbery lol.. USA USA USA

      • David says:

        @Law604, I don’t think it is necessary to lash out at him/her like that. All that does is make you seem like you are stooping down to that person’s level. We all know that there wasn’t a single minute or second that went by prior to and during the World Championships without someone giving us a statistic or reason as to why they were going to crush the US team. Even when the team was blowing out most of it’s opponents, with the exception of Brasil, still no one believed in them. For some reason, they kept on gushing about how their teams were looking so good. Yes those other teams were looking good, hitting 3 pointers out of nowhere because they hadn’t run into a defense like the USA’s. People complain on how easy the USA’s route was to the Championship, that was because they took care of business. They did what they had to do while all the other teams were too busy buying into all the accolades that were being poured allover them without winning anything at all. They believed it so much that they forgot about the games they had to play, they had more belief in the hype instead of focusing on what needed to be done to take care of the job.

  5. ECG says:

    Congrats US team for winning FIBA 2010. It’s because of Billups and Odom that they developed team work and good defence. I doubt if without this two veteran players they can win the FIBA cup.

  6. Dongz23 says:

    I think this USA squad should be included in the Hall of Fame lists.
    First of all they regained the pride of the best recognized basketball players in the world (since 1994).
    Second, the team is composed of 6 players who are 21-22 years old only.
    Third, only three players are over the age of 25 in the name of Billups, Odom and Chandler.
    Lastly, MVP for KD, GOLD for team USA without the big names in the NBA.
    What do u see?

    • David says:

      I don’t know about the Hall of fame yet, but I think they have already won the USA Basketball/USOC team or players of the year.

  7. ali says:

    Hedo was super in the entire world cup and also in the final match againts USA but unfortunately he hurts his leg in the first half and stay most of his time on the bench. I believe if hedo could play more the match would have been more difficult for USA. Congratulations USA, Congratulations Türkiye, Congratulations KD, Congratulations Hidayet Türkoğlu, Congratulations Scola, Congratulations Serbia and Lithuania

  8. Filip says:

    Serbia was robbed and there’s a video to confirm that. Watch this!

    • David says:

      It certainly seems so, however they should have clamped down on defense and not let Turkey fight back. Serbia had a big enough lead earlier for it not have to come down to this. With the exception of the Brazilian game, once the USA took a big enough lead, no matter how hard the other teams tried to fight back. For most of the teams, when the opposing team went on a run, they started to panic, the US team just stayed calm and rode through that bad patch, they stuck to their game and eventually they were able to overcome the teams.

    • Alexander says:

      Yes my friend, but we can not change the fact that the game and in fact whole championship is over. The ones who want to see the truth do not have benefits from it. There is plenty of those who do not care for truth.

  9. Rip Greenfire says:

    Here’s a question for you, why?
    Why did a team that most people will agree did not have even close to their best players get together and win it all?
    I think I found out on the final game, they’re young. This team of youngsters haven’t had time to get a huge ego, so they listen to the coach, work hard to become better, and play better with each other. USA didn’t lose, but there wouldn’t have been any finger pointing if they did. They also played with each other, not one of them tried to be a one man show (there were times they told Durant to be more selfish.) Overall, this team had every reason to lose, but they checked their egos at the door and won it all. Great job USA.

    • David says:

      Thank you for this well thoughtout comment. If there is one observation I saw out of this team, was that they went out of their way to stay humble regardless of what obstacles they faced. From the very beginning they did exhibit the utmost amount of unselfishness by sacrificing their summer breaks. I am sure they could’ve easily decided not to participate, and decided to stay home to pursue other projects like making paid appearances, or just partying. Lamar Odom just got married, I am sure he could’ve used this break to go on a longer honeymoon, Chauncy Billups is coming up to those ages where any minute of rest he can afford will be more beneficial to his heath and long lasting performance, what did they do? They stepped up to the plate when their nation came calling. Then on top of it, they had to deal with a fanbase that didn’t have any faith in them at all! They were represnting our country for crying out loud! The least we could do was at least show them an ounce of support and faith! Still they held their heads high and moved on. Now, they had just a couple of weeks to learn a whole different playing system and readjust to their roles. Compare that to players who sometimes take a year or two to adjust to playing in the NBA! And this is when they play for an entire season with countless practices with their teams. When it came to the games, they had to deal with not knowing what the referees were going to call or not. I wasn’t there, but I can’t even begin to imagine the hostility they had to deal with during the games. Sometimes I almost believe that the Europeans are more passionate about their basketball than we are. They seem to have a better sense of nationality/pride about the teams playing for their country than we are here in the USA, especially when they are playing against the US. I applaud the players for their quick adjustment and learning to deal with the “traveling” problem. If anything, I thought that was going to be their achiles heel, however their willingness to learn and combat it did gain the utmost respect from for them. Everyone kept bashing them on how they were innexprienced, small in size, young, and every other term I could think of, but with all that adversity, they stuck together, listened to the coach, and played for each other. Before, all you had was players complaining about how much time they didn’t play, this team didn’t care about that. They knew what their goal was and they were more than willing to sacrifice anything it took to achieve that goal. They never lost their self belief that they were more talented, and had the heart to persevere. After reading through the pre-tournament articles, I will have to admit that I myself almost bought into all the gushing and awe every critic had about Greece, Spain, Lithuania, Serbia, Argentina, Brazil, Russia, and so on. Even throughout the tournament! People kept on picking apart the team, regardless of if they completely dominated the other team, or if it was a close game. I am just glad to have seen this sort of team effort and willingness to work for each other from our team. Somehow all the other teams managed to find excuses as to why they lost, they were missing 1 or 2 key players. That’s it! None of them had the misfortune of never playing together for a long time like the USA team did, our team was just thrown together, they had only played together as a team for just a month. When those teams lost, they came up with all kinds of excuses as to who wasn’t there. Some are complaining as to why the US has the easier route to the Championship, really people? For your information, the US did the job that needed to be done in order for them to make it. They did it with dignity, respect, desire, heart, and will. They have certainly laid the blue print of how future USA teams should carry themselves in future international tournaments. A big congratulations to our Team USA, thank you for doing us proud and being heroes!

    • lilkedamaster says:

      I’m in agreement here. Unfortunately, there was and still is an ego left to crush and his name is Billups. Dude is as arrogant as they come. He was almost completely useless in the games. His clutch performance has been a complete embarrassment. His mentality is what caused and will cause Denver’s demise until he either checks himself or leaves. If Billups stays in Denver, I hope Carmelo leaves in return. No title for Denver until then. My 2 cents.

      • David says:

        In Billups’ defense, I will say that maybe some team needs one person with that kind of personality, because if you don’t, the opponents will automatically assume that they can easily push you around like rag dolls. For the US team, that dirty work was left upto Billups while the rest of them concentrated on more serious matters. Besides, he was sort of the Elder Statesman, and this wasn’t a really good shooting exhibition for him, so, he had to find another way to make his presence felt.

  10. nada says:

    Congratulate coach K and US team for giving us a wonderfffful time. LTU and Serbia can compete the gold medal for whining and crying.

  11. Teo (GRE) says:

    Congratulations USA, you deserved it!!!

  12. tunahanzafer says:

    i have seen the game. your all objection is over one moment where you know our center can`t make free throws, you made fouls on purpose to stop him(this is somehow sportmanship up to you, but when the guy had to leave the game because your player literally punched him in the face is not???). what kind of logic is that. if you are using these tricks to win a game which you serbians always do, you can not complain when your opponents also do so.
    By the way we were like the worst of ourselves on that game, yet you could not pull a decent win.just pathetic whining after that.

  13. Orkun says:

    Very good blog and observation it’s really bad you lost the old Pc and some pictures would be nice it’s time buy a better one and also Elveda means Farewell but can bu used as Goodbye as well :)

  14. kans says:

    Congratulations to the USA team. Actually I had expected better from the Turkish team but we are very well satisfied with the historical performance. We were just flat from the Serbia game the day before. All the players have said they could first eat at 1.30am in the morning and go to bed at 04.00am. whereas the Americans had at least 3 hours more to sleep. Overall this was a nice championship for all basketball fans with the introduction of incredible Kevin Durant to world basketball. For the US friends who may think that there were protests during the US national anthem at the ceremony, the spectators were protesting the local politicians who had to leave during the anthem as the protests did not stop.
    And finally thanks John for your detailed coverage. It was better to check the details on nba.com than on the fiba official sight where the experts gave the feeling they preferred eating baklava&kebab to writing real basketball critics.

  15. Steve says:

    To me, this is (just after the 1992 Dream Team), the best Team USA I have seen.
    Talent, discipline and dedication! We should not forget that the world’s basketball level is very high nowadays and nothing was granted for the boys…
    Congrats for this terrfic performance and hats down to the great, the one and only Coach K – he is a magician!
    This was beautiful basketball!

    • Jake says:

      This years team did great, but I don’t think they were as good as 1996 Olympic team (Dream team v. 2) or the 2008 Redeem Team. In 08 The US never had a game within 10 pts. and they walked all over people.

  16. AAA says:

    Serbia act “unsportsmanlike” hahahah

    did u watch whole game Turkey vs Serbia ???

  17. Cyrus says:

    Before this, the moment i heard Amare pulling off the squad, i thought this USA team have to wait for another 4 years to claim their World Champion since 1994. Ended up, this group of too small, too young & too inexperienced squad proved to the world that how much effort they have put in to earn this World Champion.
    Behind all this, a big credits to the coach Krzyzewski.
    And the MVP Kevin Durant, simply the best.
    Well done USA team!

  18. Gokhan says:

    congrats go to us, serbia and lithuania. they all played very well.

    note to author: “Elveda” is like the last good bye. So you should not say that, if you wish to come back. Oh, I miss Istanbul.

  19. fatih iscen says:

    congraulations usa team. they played very well and deserved it. but noone can say that serbia’s medal was stolen. they deserved it too. turkey played well and beat them like lithuania. by the way you are right john, elvada means goodbye;)

  20. tunahanzafer says:

    usa was just too much for us. although we had no serious game plan, there is no doubt states earn a rightfull gold. KD made impossiple shots. i am not a fan of our coach. i believe he is not capable of handling a true opponent. he should have started the game with 2 centers and try to pass the ball to them in the area to play one to one with odom and iguodola. that way we might not score at the beginning maybe but those 2 guys would definitely have foul trouble could be our only way to win this. instead we try to shoot the ball like we could do that better than americans or we were faster than them.

  21. MD says:

    Congratulations to USA from Lithuania. Oh, I wish Lithuania had been in the other leg and meet you in the final, rather than a semifinal game. No other team was a match to Lithuania, except to USA.

    • Law064 says:

      @MD go jump off a building or a bridge, LIT would not beat Turkey or Serbia and US would’ve beat them just like we did in the semifinals. Stop crying your team lost to the better team. Serbia lost to the better team and Turkey lost to the better team. go cry a river or jump into a river LOSER.

  22. BChris1206 says:

    This world championship is definitely the introduction of KD to the world..outside US (or say outside OKC) people only knew the likes of Kobe, Dwade, LBJ, Melo, and KG.. but now KD is part of that group and everybody in the world now knows they have something else to look up to for years to come.. Congrats TEam USA!!! You may not be the Dream Team but u sure did capture the DREAM!!!

  23. glenny says:

    durantula! gr8

  24. Airness says:

    Congratulations Team USA! Your ballers are still the best of the world. You hit the bottom for the last 16 years because of your lack of respect against others maybe but once again you redeem your pride.

    A lot have said against the team USA but they topped them all. Meaning they’re just finding their lost selves.

    And to all citizens of the world or fans especially from countries such as Serbia, you still can’t beat team USA when their heads are within their hearts. Your egos, prides and fanaticism, are making you irrational. You just wish the next basketball tournament or in the olympics that the team USA will play through their heads only so you have a chance again to beat USA.

  25. tenki says:

    This is what basketball is all about: teamwork. This undersized but multi-talented USA team proved to its skeptics that they are very capable of winning because they work a a team. Yes, Durant may be unstoppable, but this is partly because his teammates complemented hi game very well. He got a very strong supporting cast, which I myself doubted even before the tournament started.

    I would like to set this win as an example of what basketball is all about. Team USA had its great coach who understands the game well, they got the players, they got the go-to guy in KD, and they showed that you can measure height, but you can’t measure the desire to win. Fantastic job, Coach K! Again, congratulations, team USA!

    • David says:

      Well put Tenki, I can’t wait to see what it is going to be like in the olympics. I can’t even begin to imagine the sweat coming down the other teams’ faces when they are looking at a possibility of facing Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Howard, Westbrook, Erick Gordon, Amare Stoudmaire, Williams, Carmelo Anthony, I mean, can you imagine what can happen when the other teams steals the ball and are running down for an easy layup all the time worrying about Lebron James, Westbrook, flying down after them to block that shot?? I am really looking forward to the Olympics, I have a feeling we are going to see something special. That team is going to be so fired up, I pitty whomeve is going to be in their group.

  26. Howard says:

    That is definetly not a b team USA proved they have heart and they always fight and they crushed every opponent but Brazil

    • Law064 says:

      I Agree Howard, Team USA played well and crushed their opponents. @ Kestas (LTU) Stop crying US had an easy road, if they played Argentina,and Serbia. Please stop you sound like a girl. If the US played in a different bracket they would be gold medal winners reguardless. I said it since the Russia game, USA will go all the way. If we would’ve played Serbia in the final you would say that Turkey would’ve beat USA. Give them the respect they deserve and admit that we are the champions of the world!!! USA USA USA!!!!!!!

  27. Zzanzabar says:

    Well done USA team. You have accomplished what many talented teams before you could not, congrats. Despite what many will say, it really wouldn’t have mattered which team you had faced in the finals, the outcome would have remained the same. It wasn’t beauty but t’was TEAMWORK that slayed the beast(s).

  28. cherrypopper says:

    serbia’s medal was stolen on saturday, so the best team wasn’t allowed to face durant & co.
    but looking forward to the next many championships…

    • Dennis says:

      LOL! Serbia’s medal stolen? :)) FYI, Serbia finished 4th, not even 3rd. You guys act unsportsmanlike every game and now blaming the situation where your player hit Asik in the eye??

      • Oregonian says:

        Semi finals were played on Saturday, and he is talking about the referee from Dominican Republic being on court for such an important game. Check him out at Greece vs Spain match, very shady I am telling you.
        Do not make that general statements because that is how stupid people around the world this about US.

      • Kestas (LTU) says:

        Actually, many analysts agree Serbia were better and Tanjevic (Turkish coach) also said after the semi final that they were lucky to get that win, because Serbia were the better team. We as Lithuanians also expected Turkey to be our bronze opponent, even our coach thought they would be better for us. Regarding the third place game… Serbs were absolutely not themselves psychologically, while Lithuania had no such problems and played much better than they did against the US. Overall both Lithuania and Turkey overachieved and played unbelievably well, imho (Turkey never did anything significant with this team and they were pretty bad in the friendlies, too), while the US, let’s just admit it, had the easiest path to the final they could ever wish for. On the other hand, they managed to lift their game tremendously for the semis and the final. But imagine for a second USA losing that lottery game against Brazil in the group play.. Brasil had numerous chances to win it or send it to overtime, they were just unlucky.. USA would finish second and would go against Argentina for the place in top-8. Argentina would be fresh and unrelenting, their single best player is better than the entire Angolan team. If they won that, they would play Turkey in the quarterfinal and Serbia in the semis. But would they even reach the semis? Now that would be interesting scenario to watch.. Unfortunately we will never get to do this and all of this is meaningless now. By the way, in that scenario Lithuania would probably face Brazil in the semis instead of the USA team :D Anyways, not to take anything from the impressive USA win, but (and you will be mad to read this, if you aren’t already) they hardly made any additional fans here in Europe after this one (although Durant did, no question about that ;)

      • Wise says:

        Kestas,
        There’s a proverb here in Turkey, which means “if my aunt had a pen*s she would’ve been my uncle”!
        Everybody has a scenario, but history writes only realities, not scenarios.
        And do not forget that Lithuania lost to Turkey all of the last three games (including Euro 09).

    • Zzanzabar says:

      Tired team, easier bracket, bad referees…all of these are EXCUSES made by those who do not play or really appreciate what it takes to win anything. You hear them all the time (always stated by the LOSING side). The point is one team overcame what the other could not, and even if it is OBVIOUS that some part of the system breaks down, a team is not supposed to let his opponent get CLOSE enough for it to matter.

      You are not alone Lithuania, Serbia, and Spain (who I hear is somehow blaming Pau Gasol for their poor showing), it happens in the USA as well. When LA lost to Boston in the ’08 finals it was because a key player didn’t play, and when Boston lost to LA it was because of the referees AND a key player was missing (for ONE game). It never ends, all it is, is an attempt to lessen the achievement of the winners rather than acknowledge their success. It is good to see that other countries are just as arrogant and small minded as some Americans (North Americans).

      The final facts are that a small, young (but talented across the board), unseasoned American team defeated the best that the world could throw at them. No amount of ‘supposing’ or ‘what if’ can change that so live with it and plan for next year.

      • Jake says:

        Well said Zzanzabar. As for you Kestas, you’re ridiculous. Stop trying to discredit the accomplishments of the US (and Turkey) because the fact of the matter is that the US went 9-0 (and they were undefeated in pool play) and won the World Championships! They played well, they played together, and they showed the world that they are the best basketball team in existence right now.

  29. Dongz23 says:

    Congrats USA Team. .. .
    You have proven your worth by winning this competition with a lots of question surrounds you.
    I hope to see this whole squad again during the Olympics over the rested stars of USA.