Posts Tagged ‘David Blatt’

Blatt Says ‘Nyet’ To Russia; NBA Next?

The question about David Blatt only flared up every two or four years, at least among casual fans of international basketball: Why isn’t that guy coaching in the NBA or at a major college program?

For seven years, Blatt -– born outside Boston, played at Princeton –- worked as coach of Russia’s national team. The American-Israeli serves in the same capacity as Maccabi Tel Aviv in Brooklyn. But his global work schedule will be opening up considerably with his decision, as announced by the Russian Basketball Federation and reported by Eurobasket.com, to step down from duty with Big Red’s national squad:

“Russia was a big part of my professional life. Our common achievements were exceptional and historical, and our impact on Russian basketball growth was tremendous,” Blatt said in a statement issued by the Russian Basketball Federation.

“These seven mutual years were amazing and I quit while Russian basketball is at a peak as the entire basketball world follows it closely.”

Blatt’s work with the Russians was impressive. He led them to a gold medal in the 2007 EuroBasket games, knocking off heavily favored Spain, 60-59. He helped them score a bronze in the same tournament in 2011 and Russia finished third to Team USA and Spain in the London Olympics in August. (more…)

U.S-Argentina Game Blog!

LONDON – That gold medal rematch of the 1972 Olympic final that folks have been buzzing about around here for two weeks is not going to happen.

There still could be a rematch Sunday. It just won’t include Russia. David Blatt‘s team held a 13-point lead over Spain but couldn’t hold off Pau Gasol, Jose Calderon, Rudy Fernandez, Marc Gasol and the rest of a seasoned Spanish team that rallied for a 67-59 win in the first semifinal of the day.

The U.S. Men’s Senior National Team squares off with Argentina in the second semifinal (4 p.m. ET, NBC). If the U.S. wins we’ll get that rematch, but of the 2008 gold medal game in Beijing, won by the U.S.

Pau Gasol led Spain with 16 points and 12 rebounds in the win over Russia, capping a crazy day in which he found out the Dwight Howard trade was finalized during warm ups from TNT’s Craig Sager.

“Craig Sager came to me before the game, chasing me, telling me it was official, and telling me he wanted to get some thoughts while I’m stretching before the Olympic semifinal,” a smiling Gasol said from the podium afterwards. “I told him, ‘look, I’m trying to be focused here.’ And he said, ‘I wouldn’t do this to you if it wasn’t official,’ so I had to give him a little something to he would go away and I could stretch.”

Gasol and his Spanish teammates can stretch out tonight and watch the U.S. Argentina to see who they’ll have to fight with for that gold medal Sunday.

We’ll be here, too, chronicling the action play-by-nearly-every-play. Get your predictions in now …

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Olympic Quarterfinals: Win Or Go Home

LONDON – This is the day medal dreams go up in smoke for some teams in the men’s Olympic basketball competition. Or, as U.S. Men’s Senior National Team star LeBron James put it, “every game is like a Game 7.”

For the U.S., that means three more Game 7 wins are needed to claim a second straight gold medal in Olympic competition. For the seven other teams that harbor gold (or any other) medal dreams, it’s showtime.

Wednesday’s action-packed schedule, with the four games shifting from the Olympic Basketball Arena to the more familiar, NBA-styled North Greenwich (also known as the O2) Arena, promise to deliver drama and dashed dreams for some. The only game of the four that doesn’t qualify as a blood-feud, on some level, is the final game of the day between the U.S. and Australia. That one, however, features the best scorers of pool play (Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony of the U.S. and Patty Mills of Australia) and the always-intriguing subplot of whether someone will knock off the U.S.

Game 1 — Russia (B1) vs Lithuania (A4), 9 a.m. ET

Linas Kleiza and Lithuania gave the U.S. its toughest game of the competition and will take that confidence into this matchup against a Russian team that, after the U.S., was the most consistently impressive team in pool play. The Russians won Group B by overpowering other teams with an inside-out attack that features future Minnesota Timberwolves teammates Aleksey Shved and Andrei Kirilenko on the perimeter and the unsung and underrated Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov, who outplayed Spain’s heralded frontline in Russia’s win over the reigning European champions. Russia is confident and has every reason to be. But the Russians would be wise to ignore that potential gold medal game against the U.S., a long-awaited rematch of the controversial game from 40 years ago, and stay focused on an extremely dangerous Lithuania team fixated on finishing that near upset of the U.S. (Political ramifications also will be at play in the crowd and beyond with the former occupied Lithuania 22 years removed from declaring its independence from the former U.S.S.R.)

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U.S.-Lithuania Game Blog!

LONDON – The real drama in this tournament happened some 90 minutes before tip-off of the U.S. Senior Men’s National Team’s game against Lithuania at the Olympic Basketball Arena.

Russia’s 77-74 comeback win over Spain in the morning session changes things for all of the medal contenders here and essentially removes Russia from the U.S. path until the gold medal game, were both teams to make it there.

Naturally, we’re moving ahead in the story here, perhaps too far ahead in the story for anyone’s liking.

“We’re a long way from that,” said Russia coach David Blatt, an American. “We’ve got a game against Australia coming up. And then we’ve got a quarterfinal game that will be a tough match no matter who we play. So we know there is a ways to go.”

But it’s on the minds of many now that Russia is in control of Group B and the U.S. owns Group A, setting up a potential rematch of the controversial gold medal game from 40 years ago.

After taking down the reigning European champions, after trailing 20-2 in the first quarter, Russia is not intimidated by any other team in this competition.

“I think the American team is the best team in the world right now,” Andrei Kirilenko said. “But in a one-game situation, anything can happen. Every game is different. You might score 156 points in one game but the next game is different … and I’d love to play the U.S. for a gold medal, but we’re a long way from that. But you have to play the best to beat the best.”

The “best” have business of their own to tend to right now in the form of Lithuania. That said, the U.S. players were in the stands for the Russia-Spain game. They had head phones on but you know they were paying close attention to the action and taking mental notes.

Just in case …

– Dive in with us here for a (nearly) play-by-play game blog from the U.S. vs. Lithuania showdown –

– FOURTH QUARTER –

99-94 U.S. win, courtesy of the finisher … LeBron James!

32.1: Kleiza with another layup. 99-92.

1:10: LeBron with another drive and finish. Any doubts about whose team this is are being answered right now folks. 99-90.

1:58: Kleiza with the layup. Lithuania is not going anywhere. 97-90.

2:08: LeBron works his way into the lane and finishes on the left side, 97-88.

2:46: LeBron misses a corner 3, CP3 throws the mid-air pass to D. Will for another 3 that falls this time. 95-88. They’re stubborn and apparently right to be so. 95-88.

3:14: Songaila silences the “USA” chants with a layup. 92-88.

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Russia Beats Brazil On A Buzzer Beater, Spain Survives Great Britain’s Surge

LONDON – The medals will be handed out when it’s all over, but Russia’s Vitaly Fridzon will leave here having secured at least one spectacular memory from this competition.

Fridzon knocked down an off-balance 3-pointer from the corner, on a brilliantly executed play with four seconds to play to cap a thrilling 75-74 comeback win over Brazil.

“Coach told me if I was open to shoot it,” said Fridzon, who had his legs taken out on the shot by Brazil’s Leandro Barbosa. “I shot it.”

Fridzon’s shot capped a furious comeback from Russia, which squandered an 11-point early only to see Brazil turn the tables on them late. Brazil point guard Marcelinho Huertas scored on a layup with 6.1 seconds to play.

Russia’s coach, American David Blatt, took a timeout after the shot from Huertas, and dialed up the perfect play.

“Good for him, really good for him,” Blatt said of Fridzon. “He made the coach look good. He had to catch and release the ball quickly. More important than the play was the execution. They executed it to perfection.”

Andrei Kirilenko led Russia with 19 points. Timofey Mozgov had 18 before fouling out late. Aleksey Shved, headed to the Minnesota Timberwolves along with Kirilenko, finished with 17 points.

Barbosa led Brazil with 16 points. Larry Taylor added 12 and Nene finished with eight points and 10 rebounds.

SPAIN TOPS GREAT BRITAIN IN A NAIL-BITER

If that Russia-Brazil finish wasn’t wild enough, Spain and the host nation team Great Britain tried to top them in the first game of the evening session, with Spain escaping with a 79-78 win when Jose Calderon dribbled the final seven seconds off of the game clock.

Luol Deng hit an off-balance 3-pointer with seven seconds left to pull within 79-78 and somehow Jose Calderon was allowed to dribble out clock. Deng had four fouls and had facilitated the comeback and did not want to pick up his fifth (five fouls ends your game in international competition).

Deng finished with 26 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, another valiant effort in defeat for the best player on Great Britain’s team. Joel Freeland played a huge game as well, finishing with 25 points and making three of his seven shots from beyond the 3-point line, as well as seven rebounds in a head-to-head matchup against Spain’s superstar frontline of Pau and Marc Gasol.

Pau Gasol finished with 17 points and five assists and Marc Gasol 12 points and three rebounds, but it was Calderon who did the most damage for Spain. He knocked down the free throws down the stretch and had that heady play to finish the game. He led Spain with 19 points, four rebounds and two assists.

PARKER, BATUM LEAD FRANCE PAST LITHUANIA

Tony Parker scored 27 points, including seven of the last eight of the game, and Nicolas Batum 21 Thursday as France beat Lithuania 82-74.

Parker’s 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter sealed a 10-2 run that gave France the lead for good. Lithuania never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.

And that’s two straight impressive wins for France since their 27-point blowout loss to the U.S. in their opener. Much of that is due to Parker finally finding his rhythm after spending just 10 days in full preparation for the competition after a June nightclub incident left him unable, at the behest of team doctors, go through the normal process.

“I am feeling better and better,” Parker said.  “I feel like I’ve found my legs again, but in the last game (against Argentina) I was already feeling better. I felt like the shots I was taking would go in. Today I felt in rhythm, I tried to be aggressive but patient without getting frustrated and wanting to do too much.”

Boris Diaw had a solid game with 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Ronny Turiaf finished with 1o rebounds.

Martynas Pocius led Lithuania with 18 points and Linas Kleiza added 17.

A three-time Olympic bronze medalist, Lithuania is 1-2 heading into Saturday’s showdown with the U.S.

GINOBILI LEADS ARGENTINA PAST PESKY TUNISIA

Manu Ginobili made sure a 40-40 halftime score was a footnote for the Argentina, scoring 24 points to help his team run away from Tunisia for a 92-69 .

He got help from his NBA friends as Carlos Delfino chipped in with 21 points and Luis Scola 20 as Tunisia simply couldn’t sustain their effort against a second straight team stocked with NBA players. The U.S. waxed them by 47 points Tuesday night.

Tunisia’s lead was 14 points after the first 10 minutes but Ginobili went to work in the second quarter, scoring all but three of Argentina’s 15-0 run that completely changed the momentum of the game. He knocked down a 3-pointer to start the second half and Argentina led the rest of the way.

Salah Mejri finished with 19 points for Tunisia. Mourad El Mabrouk had 16.

AUSTRALIA THUMPS CHINA, YI INJURES KNEE

China didn’t just lose the game to Australia, 81-61, Thursday morning. They also lost their best player to injury when Yi Jianlian took a lick above his right knee.

“He took a bang just above the knee, not on the knee,” said China coach Bob Donewald. “We’ll have to see how he is.”

Patty Mills led Australia with 20 points. David Andersen added 17 points for Australia.

FIBA Power Rankings

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS (NEW JERSEY BUREAU) – The EuroBasket and FIBA Americas tournaments are in the books, but there’s still some basketball to be played before the 12-team field for next year’s Olympics is set.

The FIBA Asia championship, which wraps up on Sunday, will determine the ninth team to qualify for the Olympics, as well as the final two teams to qualify for the 12-team, last-chance qualifying tournament that will take place next July in a location to be determined. The top three finishers in that tournament will complete the Olympic field.

So once FIBA Asia is complete, there will be 21 teams with a chance at Olympic gold. We rank them below, taking a guess at Asia’s three representatives…

1. USA
In Olympic field – 2010 World Champion
Having qualified for the Olympics by winning last year’s World Championship, the U.S. was happy to take this summer off with a 28-game FIBA winning streak intact. Mike Krzyzewski will be back next summer, leading a new group. And Jerry Colangelo will have the opportunity to select a squad from two groups that have won championships, the 2008 team that won gold in Beijing, and the 2010 team that won in Istanbul.

2. Spain
In Olympic field – 2011 EuroBasket Champion
Spain took the U.S. to the wire in the gold medal game of the last Olympics, and there’s no reason to believe they can’t be right there with them again in London next year. Without their best player, they finished a disappointing sixth at last year’s World Championship, but they were dominant at EuroBasket over the last few weeks. They lost a pool-play game to Turkey (again without their best player), but outscored their opponents by almost 19 points per 100 possessions overall.

3. Argentina
In Olympic field – 2011 FIBA Americas Champion
Argentina’s golden core showed some signs of age in Mar del Plata and will be one year older in London. But as long as they’re healthy, no group will be more experienced or more cohesive in next year’s Olympics.

4. France
In Olympic field – 2011 EuroBasket 2nd place
After finishing 13th at last year’s World Championship, France brought a bigger group of NBA players to Lithuania. They took them all the way to the final, where they lost to Spain for the second time. This was an offensive group, but they were able to get to the final with defensive wins over Greece and Russia.

5. Russia
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 EuroBasket third place
Russia gave the U.S. it’s toughest challenge in elimination play at last year’s World Championship. And at EuroBasket, they were the only team other than Spain to win 10 games, doing it with a stifling defense that only allowed 95 points per 100 possessions. David Blatt‘s squad doesn’t have an offensive star, but they share the ball as well as any team in the world.

6. Lithuania
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 EuroBasket fifth place
A year ago, a young group of Lithuanians surprised everyone by capturing bronze at the World Championship, with their only loss coming to the U.S. in the semifinal. This year, with EuroBasket in their home country, they were a disappointment, losing to Spain, France, and then FYR Macedonia in the quarterfinals.

7. Brazil
In Olympic field – 2011 FIBA Americas 2nd place
In the last five years, no team has come closer to beating the U.S. than Brazil did in pool play at last year’s World Championship, coming a contested lay-up away from taking the Americans to overtime. They’ve also played three great games against Argentina in the last two summers. Brazil could have a full complement of NBA players next year in London, but point guard Marcelo Huertas will still be their engine.

8. Greece
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 EuroBasket sixth place
With Theo Papaloukas and Dimitris Diamantidis retired from the National Team, Greece’s strength is now on the interior. They proved at EuroBasket that they’re still a strong squad, and they’ve certainly got a shot to capture one of the last three spots at the Olympics. But they just don’t have the firepower to compete with the world’s top teams anymore.

9. Dominican Republic
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 FIBA Americas third place
It took several games for John Calipari‘s squad to find some consistency, but they looked pretty strong in their last few games at Mar del Plata. At next year’s qualifying tournament, they’ll be playing for their first ever Olympic berth in men’s basketball and lacking the international experience of the other contenders for the top three spots.

10. Puerto Rico
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 FIBA Americas fourth place
Puerto Rico was the stronger team for most of the FIBA Americas tournament, but they fell to the Dominican Republic in the bronze medal game. More disappointing was their performance at last year’s World Championship, losing to the Ivory Coast in their final pool-play game and failing to qualify for the 16-team knockout round.

11. Australia
In Olympic field – 2011 FIBA Oceania Champion
Australia only had to beat New Zealand in a three-game series to qualify for the Olympics. But that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a solid squad when healthy. They finished seventh at the ’08 Olympics and 10th at last year’s World Championship.

12. FYR Macedonia
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 Eurobasket fourth place
Behind a strong defense and the play of Bo McCalebb, FYR Macedonia was the Cinderella story of EuroBasket. They’re certainly a candidate for grabbing one of the last three Olympic berths at next year’s qualifying tournament, but you have to wonder if they can repeat what they did in Lithuania.

13. Great Britain
In Olympic field – Host
Great Britain lost its first three games at EuroBasket before recovering to beat Portugal and Poland. They should get a lift behind their home crowd next year, but they still might have a tough time making the quarterfinals.

14. Venezuela
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 FIBA Americas fifth place
Venezuela took a step forward with their fifth-place finish in Mar del Plata, but it’s hard to imagine them fitting in the top three at next year’s qualifying tournament. Eric Musselman‘s offense was the most efficient (121 points scored per 100 possessions) at the FIBA Americas tournament, but his team’s defense was pretty awful.

15. New Zealand
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 FIBA Oceania second place
New Zealand got swept by Australia, but this is a team that won three games at last year’s World Championship behind the scoring of Kirk Penney. That included a win over France.

16. Iran
Currently 4-0 at FIBA Asia
Iran won a game at last year’s World Championship and is now looking like the early favorite to capture Asia’s spot at the Olympics, having won its last two games by a total of 179 points.

17. China
Currently 4-0 at FIBA Asia
No longer is it clear that China is the best team in Asia. Wednesday’s game against Japan (also 4-0) will be an interesting test.

18. Tunisia
In Olympic field – 2011 FIBA Africa Champion
With a (relatively) strong defense, Tunisia is the best team in Africa. But this is still a team that went 0-5 at last year’s World Championship. That included a 13-point loss to Iran.

19. Angola
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 FIBA Africa second place
Angola won two games (over Jordan and Germany) at last year’s World Championship before getting crushed by the U.S. in the round of 16. They lost by 11 to Tunisia in the FIBA Africa final.

20. Nigeria
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 FIBA Africa second place
Nigeria looked pretty strong until losing to Angola in the semifinals.

21. Korea
Currently 4-0 at FIBA Asia
With four easy wins, Korea is looking like the third best team in Asia. They’ll play Iran in their final pool-play game on Wednesday.

Field for 2012 Olympics
Team How
United States 2010 World Champion
Great Britain Host
Tunisia FIBA Africa Champion
Australia FIBA Oceania Champion
Argentina FIBA Americas Champion
Brazil FIBA Americas 2nd place
Spain EuroBasket Champion
France EuroBasket 2nd place
Team 9 FIBA Asia Champion
Team 10 2012 Qualifier
Team 11 2012 Qualifier
Team 12 2012 Qualifier
Field for 2012 Olympic Qualifying Tournament
Team How
Angola FIBA Africa 2nd place
Nigeria FIBA Africa 3rd place
New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
Dominican Republic FIBA Americas 3rd place
Puerto Rico FIBA Americas 4th place
Venezuela FIBA Americas 5th place
Russia EuroBasket 3rd place
FYR Macedonia EuroBasket 4th place
Lithuania EuroBasket 5th place
Greece EuroBasket 6th place
Team 11 FIBA Asia 2nd place
Team 12 FIBA Asia 3rd place

Spain, France Set To Battle In EuroBasket Finals

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The stage is set. Spain and France will battle it out for the crown of the best team in Europe at EuroBasket 2011, their invitations to next summer’s Olympic games in London are set now.

How’d they get here?

That’s what we (my main man and NBA.com‘s John Schuhmann kicks things off today) are here for …

Spain 92, FYR Macedonia 80 (Boxscore)

From the start of this tournament, we all expected Spain to make the final and earn one of Europe’s two guaranteed spots in next year’s Olympics. But none of us expected FYR Macedonia to be the last team standing between the defending European champs and that Olympic berth.

Getting through this semifinal was no walk in the park for Spain. The defending champs didn’t take control of the game until late in the third quarter when Juan Carlos Navarro caught fire. Navarro scored 19 of his 35 points in the third, at one point hitting a ridiculous running three at the shot clock buzzer, to give Spain a nine-point edge heading into the fourth.

The Macedonia offense, which had struggled all tournament but scored 45 points in the first half, couldn’t keep up with Navarro’s onslaught. And with the Gasol brothers almost outrebounding Macedonia by themselves, Spain was just too much for the underdogs.

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Notes from RUS 78, NZL 56

ISTANBUL – As expected, Russia will be the team the U.S. faces in the quarterfinals of the 2010 FIBA World Championship. It wasn’t pretty, but they took care of business with a 78-56 win over New Zealand in Monday’s nightcap at the Sinan Erdem Dome.

Russia is now 5-1 with a very tough defense, and will be a much tougher test for the U.S. than Angola was.

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