Posts Tagged ‘2010 FIBA World Championship’

The Golden Era Of Point Guards

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — With a handful of the best and most dynamic point guards on display in the 60th All-Star Game, it’s easy to see why so many people left the Staples Center Sunday night raving about all that we saw.

Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo are just a part, the best part, of what we would argue is the most polished crop of point guards the NBA has seen in years and maybe ever.

It makes for an easy night for superstars like Kevin Durant, who was on the receiving end all night.

“Playing with great players, I kind of get lost.  I was trying to find positions for me to get easy shots,” Durant said. “Chris Paul is an unbelievable point guard and has unbelievable vision.  Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook as well and I was able to make some shots.”

As strong as the first tier of point guards has become, there is just as robust a crop of second tier point guards (Raymond Felton, Jameer Nelson, Brandon Jennings, Tyreke Evans, Ty Lawson and others, including hybrids like Steph Curry) and a veteran group (Steve Nash, Chauncey Billups, Tony Parker, Andre Miller, Derek Fisher and others) that remains as dangerous as anyone with a game on the line and in the postseason.

There are a handful of virtuoso performances turned in seemingly every night, Jennings did the honors last night (as you can see in the video below). And the head-to-head matchups are always intriguing, Westbrook and Parker matchup tonight in prime time when the Thunder and Spurs go at it at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Good luck trying to win an argument about who might be the best. None of them are identical. They all bring a different set of talents to the table, some defying the stereotype of the traditional, “pass-first” point guard and instead putting their own unique spin on the game’s most important position in what appears to be a golden era for the position.

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Gold Medal Grads Going Strong

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — You know what they did last summer.

The members of the U.S. National Team came home from the FIBA 2010 World Championship in Turkey with gold medals hanging around their necks.

It turns out that was just the warm up act for this crew. They haven’t slowed down yet, with members of the team going off on a nightly basis and putting together career numbers up and down the roster for their NBA teams. (more…)

Storm Warnings

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Between the ominous words of both NBA Commissioner David Stern and Players’ Union chief Billy Hunter regarding the gulf separating the sides in the looming labor dispute and the knowledge that we’re still at least 48 hours (and counting) away from the start of the regular season, I’m not sure I can locate my motivation.

All this lockout talk is threatening to burn the edges on what is shaping up to be the most intriguing and dramatic regular season race we’ve seen in years.

Here at the hideout, we’d like to enjoy this one as best we can (just in case we have to go without for a little while after this season). We want to savor this first season of the this new era, the one that began the night LeBron James told the world he was “taking his talents to South Beach.”

We’ve already come up with our short list of things we’re looking forward to this season (feel free to add to our list below):

1) CAN MIAMI HANDLE THE HEAT?

For months now everyone has been wondering how anyone will be able to deal with James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat this season. After seeing them (everyone but Wade) up close and personal Thursday in Atlanta, I’m suddenly more interested in how the Heat will deal with the heat (from the media and fans around the world) that will accompany throughout their historic journey?

There is really no blueprint for what they are doing. As much as people want to associate this crew with the Celtics’ Big 3, the dynamics are nothing alike. The Celtics were pressed together with a giant (imaginary) clock ticking on their respective career windows to win a title. Miami’s 3 are all in the primes of their careers. They have years to chase titles. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce were all entering the final stage of their star-studded careers.

I was searching for some sense of urgency from the Heat, some of that “now-or-never” aura that all championship teams seem to posses. I found it in James, who finally appears to be operating with that chip on his shoulder that’s been missing. He’s always been motivated to win championships but it feels like all the drama surrounding his decision might have given him the extra incentive he needed to finally grasp the only that’s eluded him so far …

… that is if if injuries don’t derail the ride. Wade played just three preseason minutes and now comes word that Mike Miller could be out until January with that hand injury he suffered in practice.

2) WHO RISES UP AND WHO FALLS DOWN?

In order for someone — like the Bulls, Bucks, Thunder and Grizzlies — to rise up the standings, someone — like the Hawks, Cavaliers, Nuggets and Trail Blazers — has to slide down. It’s all guesswork right now. There’s no way of telling what will happen. All we have to go on right now is a preseason stint that some teams take much more serious than others. But what we do know is that no teams can rise without the fall of another.

Take a look at the work the Timberwolves (6-2), Hang Time Grizzlies (8-0) and Jazz (8-0) did in the preseason and tell me they aren’t angling to take someone’s spot in the Western Conference pecking order. By the same token, it’s clear that Orlando (7-0) and Boston (7-1) have no intention of conceding anything to the Heat, not even the mythical preseason Eastern Conference title. Even the jilted Cavs (6-2) did their best to make a statement during the preseason.

Come Tuesday night, though, everything changes. The games are for real and the consequences of hesitating this season could last the entire season. Because when someone goes up, someone else inevitably comes down.

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Lasting Impressions

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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Eric Gordon defensive stopper?

Don’t laugh.

It happened.

It’s strange, the things playing with the those three important letters — USA –across your chest can make a player do.

Kevin Durant did his usual, starring on the big stage, proving what we all knew before he and his teammates on the U.S. National Team headed t Turkey in search of gold at the 2010 FIBA World Championship, showing that his rise to global superstardom is absolutely on the fast track.

There was nothing surprising about Lamar Odom‘s stellar utility work or Kevin Love‘s rugged rebounding ability or the flinch-free leadership in the most pressure-packed of situations that only a veteran the ilk of Chauncey Billups can provide.

We come to expect certain things from certain players, regardless of the venue or circumstance, based solely on our lengthy history of watching them respond in similar situations.

But it’s the guys like Gordon, the Los Angeles Clippers’ mercurial young guard, that always provide the best surprises in these international competitions.

Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook will make anyone’s short list of the most promising young guards in the NBA. But Gordon, due in large part to the Clippers’ struggles, wouldn’t normally land on that radar.

Watching him work with the USA on his chest, however, served as a grand reminder of just how dynamic a player he could be if used properly — surely the Clippers’ brass saw him this summer and have to be thinking about tweaking his role alongside Baron Davis this season.

Gordon’s shooting range is basically anywhere inside of the half court line, something that’s always been a staple of his game. His work on the defensive end, however, was a revelation. And I’ve been watching Gordon for years, long before he wore the Clippers’ red, white and blue.

I watched Gordon play alongside Rose years ago in Las Vegas, on a travel team the summer before their senior year in high school, when there was still some debate as to which one of the two was the better prospect. Both were outlandish, even then. But Rose projected into a specific position (point guard) while Gordon’s future position was a bit murky. (Even then, they were both unbelievable together … literally unbelievable!)

A lost season at Indiana didn’t help the projections, though the Clippers did have the sense to make him a lottery pick (7th overall in the 2008 draft). Gordon validated his lofty draft position with his play. His first two NBA seasons have been above average, 16.1 points per game as a rookie and 16.9 last season, albeit on a beleaguered Clippers team.

The point is, as solid as Gordon has been to start his NBA career, competitions like the 2010 FIBA World Championship remind us of how much more a young guy like Gordon is capable of, on both ends of the floor. And therein lies one of the truly beautiful things about the selection process for pros conducted USA Basketball honcho Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski. It wasn’t just about snagging the most high-profile names this summer. It was about finding the best fits for this team. And they did a fantastic job.

There were eyebrows raised when Gordon and guys like Steph Curry and Love made the team over some other players. But not here at the hideout. Our expectations for this team were through the roof. And we’re expecting similar big things out of these gold medal-wearing players this season.

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Stars Headed To The (FIBA) Hall

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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The National Teams from the United States and Turkey won’t be the only big time ballplayers on display in Istanbul today.

They’ll have a little company from a few familiar faces. A 17-member Hall of Fame class will get the red carpet treatment at the gold medal game of the 2010 FIBA World Championship.

Cheryl Miller, Arvydas Sabonis and Vlade Divac headline the group that will be inducted into International Basketball Federation’s Hall of Fame for their achievements at the Olympic Games, world championships and developing the global game.

Sure, it’s been a while since you’ve seen any of the three headliners go to work on a court. But don’t forget how ridiculous they were in their primes:

CHERYL MILLER

You can start the debate about the greatest player the women’s game has seen, but it has to start with Miller’s name at the top as far we’re concerned here at the hideout. Her game was far ahead of its time. She was not only a dominant scorer but always the best all-around player and athlete on the floor.

Miller won 1984 Olympic gold with the U.S., a world title two years later and is believed to be the first woman to dunk in a high school game. Miller won two NCAA championships at USC and later became head coach, and you know all about her outstanding work as part of the TNT and NBA TV families.

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ARVYDAS SABONIS

We feel for those of you that only remember Sabonis as the human tank of a center for the Portland Trail Blazers during his NBA days, because he was so much more than that.  The Lithuanian born Sabonis won the Euroscar Award (the best player in Europe) six times during his professional career there. Sabonis won Olympic and world titles with the Soviet Union, then led his native Lithuania to two Olympic bronze medals.

He didn’t come to the states until he was 30, and still had a distinguished career with the Trail Blazers. He was runner-up for Rookie of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year in 1996 while starring on Portland teams that made the playoffs in all seven of his NBA seasons. But there was a healthy debate in the 1980s, when Sabonis was winning all of those Euroscar Awards that he, and not Magic Johnson or Larry Bird, was the best player in the world.

VLADE DIVAC

Easily the most flamboyant of the three headliners, Divac helped Yugoslavia win two world titles and two Olympic silvers, losing to Sabonis and the Soviet Union in 1988, and at the 1996 Games in Atlanta to a United States Dream Team. The president of Serbia’s Olympic Committee, Divac is best known to NBA fans for an NBA career that spanned 16 seasons.

He played in the NBA from 1989-05, including twice with the Los Angeles Lakers. He had his No. 21 jersey retired by the Sacramento Kings, Drazen Petrovic is the only other European born and trained player to have his jersey retired by an NBA team (New Jersey). Divac is one of six players in NBA history to record 13,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists and 1,500 blocked shots, along with current or future Hall of Fame big men Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett and Hakeem Olajuwon.

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