Posts Tagged ‘David Robinson’

Pop The Rock Rolls Up On Win No. 900

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HANG TIME, Texas — It’s no wonder most NBA coaches are constantly moving on the sidelines. Theirs is a peripatetic lifestyle, usually with one hand gripping a suitcase and one foot out the door.

Among many other things about his worldly background and his puckish personality, it is his stability that makes Gregg Popovich unique.

With a win tonight at home against the Jazz (8:30 ET, League Pass), Popovich will become the 12th coach in NBA history to win 900 career games, but will be the first to claim each and every victory with a single team.

Over the past 17 seasons, the Spurs have been Pop as much as much as they have been David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and the other 130 players who have worn the silver and black uniform.

In a league that is teeming with exceptional coaches — Denver’s George Karl, Boston’s Doc Rivers, Minnesota’s Rick Adelman, Memphis’ Lionel Hollins, Dallas’ Rick Carlisle, Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau, Miami’s Erik Spoelstra — Popovich stands a step apart and above.

He is always the first and usually the last to tell you that it’s all about the players, but to a man, they will tell you he is the one whom they are all about in the way the prepare, work and attack every game and play.

When he sat at a makeshift table for a news conference last spring when he was named Coach of the Year for the second time in his career, Popovich’s face turned different shades of red. But it wasn’t for the usual reasons of screaming at a referee or boiling at another question from a reporter. He was, in short, embarrassed with the attention.

Pop’s Way. That’s what they call it around the executive offices and on the practice floor and in the locker room.

“It’s about us, not me,” he said, sheepish from the attention.

But year after year, season after season, it has been about him getting the most out of his team by being willing to change the pace of play — from slogging, powerful inside ball to Duncan to a microwave fastbreak that is sparked by Parker — but never his principles or his own personal style.

He just wears suits, doesn’t model them.

“They’re not Italian,” he told an inquiring mind years ago.

He doesn’t do TV commercials or endorsements.

“I refuse,” he said another time. “I’d rather spend time in other ways.”

Pat Riley, the Hall of Fame coach and stylist, once said the Spurs are “the most emotionally stable team in the league.”

That’s because it is a team in Popovich’s image. He picks the players, he builds the team, he molds them and has constructed a franchise that has always eschewed endearing to be enduring. It’s all added up to the best record in the Western Conference again, an NBA record 14 consecutive 50-win seasons, 16th straight trips to the playoffs and puts him on the doorstep of history, all in one place.

After 900 wins, Pop won’t be going anywhere but straight ahead. (more…)

On Rare Night, Brown, Manning Reunite

HANGTIME SOUTHWEST — On Sunday evening in Dallas, one of the rarest coaching matchups ever in college basketball will take place between Larry Brown and Danny Manning, two men whose relationship traces back decades and generations, and intersects as coach-and-player in the college ranks and in the NBA.

Now as colleagues, Manning, a rookie head coach, brings his Tulsa Golden Hurricane (8-6) to Moody Coliseum to face the legendary Brown in his first season leading the long-irrelevant SMU Mustangs (10-5) in both teams’ Conference USA opener.

“First of all, I dread this game,” Brown said Friday during a teleconference to preview the matchup. “Danny’s been such a big part of my life. Aside from watching him coach and knowing he’s a head coach, and we all take pride in that and know our game is better for that, it’s going to be a special moment for me seeing him on the other bench, seeing him coaching. But I don’t enjoy that opportunity because if we lose, I don’t take loses very well, and if we win, I’m not going to be happy about him being on the losing side.”

The two did very little losing at Kansas nearly a quarter-century ago.

In 1988, Manning, the Jayhawks’ star senior, and Brown, their respected, bespectacled coach, won the national championship. In today’s era, Manning might not have been around to win Most Outstanding Player honors. Instead he’d probably have been grinding through his third or maybe even fourth season in the NBA.

Sunday’s otherwise under-the-radar Tulsa-SMU matchup marks just the second time ever that the coach and MOP of an NCAA title team will face each other as head coaches, according to the hard-digging SMU media relations department. The only other time? Back in 1950 when Howie Dallmar, the 1942 MOP for Stanford, and coach Everett Dean matched wits with Dean still at Stanford and Dallmar at Penn. The pupil won that one 59-58.

In ’88, Manning’s father Ed, whom Brown coached briefly with the ABA Carolina Cougars, was on Brown’s staff. After the Jayhawks won the title, Danny Manning would become the No. 1 draft pick of the Los Angeles Clippers and Brown would take Ed, who died of a heart condition at age 68 in May 2011, with him to his first NBA stop with the San Antonio Spurs.

Five years later, Brown would reunite with Danny Manning as coach of the Clippers.

But what might have been if back then players routinely lasted one year in college as they do today or, before the one-and-done rule, played no college ball at all? Some top players in Manning’s day and before obviously left school after two or three seasons, but it wasn’t the norm. Manning had his chance to go.

“My story at Kansas, there was talk my junior year that potentially there could be some interest for me to look into the NBA,” Manning said Friday on the teleconference. “This is a true story, this is how it went down. My dad comes over to my apartment, he steps one foot in the door and he says, ‘You’re not ready,’ and it was end of discussion. He followed that up by, I think it was a Saturday or Sunday when the season was over, by, ‘Hey, you coming by the house to eat? Mom cooked today.’ And that was the end of my NBA thought-process, so to speak.”

As a junior, Manning averaged 23.9 points and 9.5 rebounds. He shot a remarkable 61.7 percent. As Brown remembers it, Manning would have been the No. 1 pick that season.  That pick belonged to the Spurs, who drafted a 7-footer out of the Naval Academy named David Robinson, a player they’d have to wait on to fulfill his service commitment.

“He’s not telling you the whole story on this whole going pro thing,” Brown said. “His dad and mom came in and saw me. I didn’t know what advice to give them. I thought he was going to be the first pick in the draft. I told his dad that. And based on my background with coach [Dean] Smith, if you were a lottery pick he didn’t let you come back to school. But I spoke to Danny and Ed, and Danny told me he promised his mom and his dad that he would graduate and I basically said, ‘Well, you can go in the pros and come back and graduate.’

“And then Danny kind of said, ‘Well, I really would some day like to be the first pick in the draft.’ And I thought, well, based on my knowledge and how good he was, I thought he’d be the first pick in the draft unless other general managers were crazy. And then the third thing he told me was, ‘I want to win a national championship.’ And I said, ‘Well, the other two we can handle, but you’d have to stay another year to do that.’ That’s at least the way I looked at the story. And lo-and-behold, he graduated, he was the first pick in the draft and we won a national championship.

“So, it was a great story. Maybe I made it up.”

Had Manning left, Brown probably wouldn’t own the distinction as the only coach to win an NCAA and NBA championship, which he got with the 2004 Detroit Pistons during his seventh of nine stops over 26 NBA seasons. But Manning stayed, and no coach has yet to match Brown with double crowns.

Manning went on to play 15 seasons in the NBA and averaged double figures in scoring in 10 of them. He’s seen plenty of short-timers come and go in the college game since his NBA retirement. He was an assistant at Kansas for nine seasons before moving up to Tulsa where he follows in the coaching tradition of Tubby Smith, Nolan Richardson and current Kansas coach Bill Self.

As seasoned as any pro in any draft after four years at Kansas, Manning said one reason he lasted so long in the NBA is because of the stream of young talent drafted into the NBA on potential, players that didn’t possess the maturity to stick.

“That’s the era that we’re in now and it’s based upon potential,” Manning said. “I’ve said this and lots of other people have said this many, many times before, all professional leagues, the backbone of those professional leagues are your solid veteran players and there are a lot of young men that come out early and aren’t quite ready for the rigors of professional athletics, but are there because of their potential.

“And I said I was fortunate and blessed enough to play 15 years. But part of the reason I was able to play that long is because the young men that were coming in weren’t ready. They weren’t ready to make a contribution to the team or accept the role that an older veteran will accept, knowing how special and unique it is to be a professional athlete.”

Sweet 6 Could Make All-Star Debuts

HANG TIME, Texas — Every year when the first batch of NBA All-Star vote totals is announced, it is often reminiscent of one of Capt. Renault’s famous lines from “Casablanca”: Round up the usual suspects.

We could pretty much count on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony being in the starting lineups on Feb. 17 in Houston even before the first online ballot was ever cast.

There are other questions, of course. Will the resurgent Tim Duncan make a return to the Western Conference team after his 12-year streak was broken last season? How many votes will Derrick Rose get, even though he’s been rehabbing his knee and hasn’t played a single game? Will a groundswell of “Linsanity” put Jeremy Lin onto his home court in Houston?

But the most interesting question — and the hottest debates — usually come down to the players that are trying to break out under the All-Star Game spotlight for the very first time.

So, we present a six-pack of the most deserving candidates to take their All-Star debuts this season:

Stephen Curry, Warriors — Nobody’s writing him off as being too fragile anymore, worried that the ankles just won’t hold up. Now in his fourth season, the sweet shooting guard is having his best year. He’s averaging career highs of 20 points, 6.5 rebounds — numbers among point guards that are eclipsed only by OKC’s Russell Westbrook. Perhaps most significant, he’s playing 37.2 minutes a night, having not missed a game. He’s showing the quick release and the accuracy from 3-point range that everyone predicted coming into the league and, now that he’s finally healthy, Curry is playing the role of leader on a 14-7 Golden State team that has been virtually without center Andrew Bogut.

James Harden, Rockets — The Beard exploded into the headlines by scoring 37 and 45 points in his first two games for the Rockets almost before he learned the names of his teammates. It was widely acknowledged that Harden had been sacrificing a big piece of his game and potential stardom by coming off the bench for the Thunder. But did everyone think it was a piece the size of Greenland? At 24.7 a game, he is fifth in the league in scoring, trailing only Bryant, Anthony, Durant and James. He also kicks in 5.6 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game and, quite frankly, does about anything he wants in the Houston offense, raining in 3-pointers or getting all the way to the rim off the dribble. Just by pulling on the uniform, he’s made the Rockets relevant again.

O.J. Mayo, Mavericks — Who would have predicted this when the Grizzlies held the door open and told him not to let it him on the way out last summer? The Mavericks may have struck out in their bids for the high profile names in Howard and Deron Williams, but likely scooped up the free agent bargain of the offseason in Mayo. He ranks 10th in scoring at 20.8 per game, a career best. He’s also shooting at a 48.7 clip, including a sizzling 53 percent from behind the 3-point line. With Dirk Nowitzki sidelined while recovering knee surgery, the Mavs were desperate for someone who could fill up the basket every night and be able to make the big shots down the stretch every night. With a consistency and a concentration of focus that always eluded him in Memphis, Mayo has done it all.

Joakim Noah, Bulls — It might have been easy for the Bulls to simply resign themselves and tread water while waiting for the return of Rose. But Noah is a splasher and he’s responded along with teammate Luol Deng by tirelessly attacking every game as coach Tom Thibodeau has significantly raised his playing time and the level of expectation. Noah ranks seventh in the league in rebounding (10.8), seventh in blocked shot (2.3) and also averages 1.4 steals, all of which has helped give the Bulls the most efficient defense in the NBA and has to put him high in the early conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. He’s also averaging 13.6 points and 4.3 assists at the other end of the floor.

Josh Smith, Hawks — He’s flown beneath the radar for so long that it has somehow become acceptable to take what he’s done for granted through eight seasons and counting. By the time this one is over, J-Smoove will likely have 10,000 points, 5,000 rebounds, 2,000 assists and 1,000 blocked shots with the same team. That will put him on a select list with Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Julius Erving, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett. All but Ewing have at least one MVP award to their name and Smith is the only one who has never appeared in the All-Star Game. It took him a little while to get rolling this season, but Smith now has things in gear. He was just named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for averaging a double-double (21 points, 12 rebounds) in leading the Hawks to a 3-0 record. He is their leading scorer in a 12-6 season that has Atlanta No. 3 in the East standings.

Anderson Varejao, Cavaliers — How is it that the best center in the Eastern Conference could be on the trading block? It has to do more with the Cavs’ miserable 5-17 record rather than any of what Varejao has brought to the table. He’s averaging a career-high 14.8 points and leading the league with 14.9 rebounds per game. Varejao is tied with Memphis’ Zach Randolph for the league lead in double-doubles with 15, and for the 11 games when Kyrie Irving was injured and on the shelf, he might have been the only reason to watch the Cavs. Of course, every G.M. in the league has been watching and with Cleveland in full rebuilding mode, seeking draft picks and young players, there’s a good chance he’ll change uniforms twice this season. That is, of course, assuming he’ll switch into an All-Star jersey for the first time in Houston.

History Says Lakers Play Long Odds





History says the Lakers probably had to do something to save a season that was slipping away.

History also says that in making the switch from Mike Brown to Mike D’Antoni they might just as well be expecting to hit one of those half-court shots to win a car than to be hosting a victory parade next June.

Yeah, the odds are long.

In the previous 66 years, only three in-season coaching changes have produced an immediate championship. Then again, twice it happened for the Lakers, in 1980 and 1982.

However, if the focus is a little farther down the line — and D’Antoni is the right choice — the payoff could be down the line. There have been seven different replacement coaches and eight teams that eventually claimed NBA titles.

1956-57 — Alex Hannum, St. Louis Hawks — The Hall of Famer is more popularly known for leading Wilt Chamberlain and the Sixers in 1967, ending the string of Bill Russell and the Celtics at eight titles in a row. But Hannum replaced Red Holzman and interim coach Slater Martin as player/coach midway through the season. The Hawks lost to the Celtics in The Finals that year. But when he retired and went to the bench full-time, they beat Boston to win it all the following year. He was the only coach to beat Boston in the playoffs during Russell’s 13-year career.

1977-78 — Lenny Wilkens, Seattle SuperSonics — The Hall of Famer took over the reins for Bob Hopkins after the Sonics got off to a woeful 5-17 start that season. He put the spark back in the game with an 11-1 start to his regime and took the Sonics to The Finals, where they lost to the Bullets in seven games. The team featuring Dennis Johnson, Jack Sikma and Fred Brown came back to claim Seattle’s only championship by beating the Bullets for the 1979 crown.

1977-78 — Billy Cunningham, Philadelphia 76ers — Gene Shue’s talent-laden Sixers were upset by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1977 and then staggered out of the gate the following season with a 2-4 record. A Philly favorite as a Hall of Fame player, Cunningham got the first coaching experience of his career when he took over the controls. The Sixers with Julius Erving lost to the Bullets in the Eastern Conference finals in his first year, were beaten by the Lakers in the NBA Finals in 1980 and 1982, but finally broke through and it all when Moses Malone led a 4-0 sweep of L.A. in 1983.

1979-80 — Paul Westhead, L.A. Lakers — First-year NBA assistant coach Paul Westhead moved into the main seat 14 games into the season after head coach Jack McKinney suffered a serious head injury in a fall from a bicycle. The Shakespearean scholar got to cap of an amazing debut season when a fellow rookie named Magic Johnson jumped center, then piled up 42 points, 15 rebound and seven assists in the Game 6 Finals clincher at Philadelphia.

1981-82 & 2005-06 — Pat Riley, L.A. Lakers, Miami Heat — When Magic became disenchanted with Westhead and nudged him toward the door 11 games into the season, the Lakers plucked the former player turned broadcaster from behind the radio microphone to begin a Hall of Fame career on the bench. The untested Riley guided the Lakers to another NBA Finals win over Philadelphia, then won three more titles in L.A. in 1985, 1987 and 1988. After his cross country move took him to New York and then Miami, Riley the G.M. replaced Stan Van Gundy following an 11-10 start in 2005-06. Seven months later, Riley and Dwyane Wade for the Heat out of an 0-2 hole to beat the Mavericks in The Finals.

1991-92 — Rudy Tomjanovich, Houston Rockets — A year after he was named Coach of the Year, Don Chaney’s Rockets were stuck in a 26-26 rut and he was fired on Feb. 18. A reluctant Tomjanovich, then a team scout and assistant coach, had to be talked into taking the job. A season later he became the first coach in NBA history to take his team from the lottery to a division title in his first full season on the job. The local legend Rudy T then put enough spot-up shooters around Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon to produce back-to-back championships for Houston in 1994 and 1995.

1996-97 — Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs — It was 18 games into the season when G.M. Popovich pulled the rug and fired coach Bob Hill. It was a move that was considered presumptuous and unpopular in some corners of town. But all was forgiven when he took a team with David Robinson and second-year forward Tim Duncan to the championship in 1999. Since that time, he has added Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to the lineup, three more titles and the beloved and cantankerous “Pop” is almost as much a part San Antonio lore as the Alamo.

Will Tim Duncan Take Advantage Of His Rule For All-Star Start?


HANG TIME SOUTHWEST —
 So which player could be the first to take advantage of the so-called “Tim Duncan Rule,” the tweak to the All-Star ballot that will ask fans to vote for three “frontcourt” players instead of the traditional two forwards and a center?

Um, how about Tim Duncan? The league will debut the new ballots on Tuesday. The 2013 All-Star Game is on Feb. 17 at Houston’s Toyota Center.

For years, the San Antonio Spurs’ mellow superstar has masqueraded as a power forward really by name only. When Yao Ming entered the league in 2002-03, he generated such an enormous number votes from his home country that there was no way Duncan, who broke in with the Spurs alongside 10-time All-Star center David Robinson, would have ever started an All-Star game if classified as a center.  As a power forward, Duncan started 12 consecutive All-Star games from 2000 to 2011.

Highest def. reb. percentage, 2012-13
Player GP DREB DREB%
Anderson Varejao 5 47 32.0%
Tim Duncan 7 60 31.4%
Spencer Hawes 6 36 29.8%
Al Jefferson 7 55 29.7%
Kevin Garnett 6 46 29.3%

Through Saturday, 11/10
Minimum 100 minutes played
DREB% = Percentage of available defensive
rebounds obtained while on the floor

(Frankly, with so few true centers being viable All-Star candidates these days, the ballot change was overdue.)

That streak, as well as 12 consecutive All-Star appearances ended last season as youngsters Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin dominated fan voting to earn starting spots, Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge simply couldn’t be left off as reserves, and reigning NBA champ Dirk Nowitzki appropriately got the nod despite a slow start.

Most observers figured Duncan’s All-Star days were behind him with his stats trending down as coach Gregg Popovich continued to reduce his court time while shaping the offense around guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili and the club’s perimeter shooters.

Of course, the move of Dwight Howard to the Western Conference could well make the discussion of Duncan as a starter moot anyway, assuming fan backlash toward the maddening, flip-flopping center doesn’t hurt him on the ballot.

Nevertheless, Duncan is certainly making it interesting.

At 36, he is playing like he’s 26. With the Spurs off to a West-best 6-1 start, Duncan is far and away the team’s scoring leader (18.9 ppg) and he’s dominating the boards, averaging 9.7, more than three more rebounds a game than anyone else on the team.

Consider this nugget shared by NBA.com stat guru John Schuhmann: Duncan’s defensive rebounding percentage of 31.4 is the highest of his career (defensive rebounding percentage is the percent of available defensive rebounds he got when he was on the floor, so with the Spurs on defense there have been 191 available rebounds with Duncan on the floor, and he’s grabbed 60 of them). He ranks second in the league in the category behind Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao.

If Duncan keeps this up, he will be a top candidate to make a 14th All-Star roster. But how realistic is it for a 13th career start? Again, the Howard dynamic is in play, but the new format at least creates the discussion. You have to believe that Durant and Blake will again dominate fan voting and take the top two spots.

But here’s the catch for the third: Other candidates have either started the season slowly or injured. Love and Nowitzki have yet to even suit up and could still be out a few more weeks. LaMarcus Aldridge, an All-Star newbie last season, is off to a poor-shooting start (a career-worst 43.6 percent although he’s averaging 21.8 points and 7.3 rebounds) on a Portland team in transition. Pau Gasol is off to an inauspicious start in the Lakers’ soap opera.

Memphis’ big-man duo of Marc Gasol, an All-Star last season, and Zach Randolph, off to a monster start, will make hard cases.

Bottom line is if Duncan continues at this rate, how does he not make the team? It will be an interesting couple of months.

Hawks’ Smith Flies With The Best





HANG TIME, TEXAS — Along with electricity, gravity and the remote control, we can add one more item to the list of things we take for granted.

Josh Smith.

Is it because he plays in Atlanta, where the home team usually has been far less entertaining and satisfying than the home team down the road at the TNT studio?

Is it because to the Hawks, life beyond the second round of the playoffs is as mythical as Xanadu or the lost continent of Atlantis?

Is it because of all of Smith’s ill-timed, ill-thought 3-pointers that have resulted in dents in the wall from where we slammed our heads? (more…)

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 89) Featuring Roy Hibbert And Chelsea Peretti

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Go ahead, run down the list of the most unstoppable and dynamic duos in NBA history …

Bill Russell and Bob Cousy

Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West

Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Magic Johnson and Kareem

Dr. J and Moses Malone

Larry Bird and Kevin McHale

Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars

Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen

Karl Malone and John Stockton

Tim Duncan and David Robinson

Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade

and finally Roy Hibbert and Chelsea Peretti!

That’s right. Hibbert, the Indiana Pacers’ All-Star center and Peretti, the stand-up comedian and former writer on the Emmy-nominated “Parks and Recreation”, have tossed their names into the mix with their appearance on Episode 89 of the Hang Time Podcast.

Hibbert has already made his appearance on Parks and Rec. This is Peretti’s first dip in the NBA waters, other than attending Lakers games on tickets she scored from Hibbert.

It’s not often you can pair a “7-foot-2 behemoth” with a “6-foot-11 supermodel” and things go as smoothly as they did. And if they take their act on the road or land a deal for one of the buddy flick ideas tossed around during our brainstorming session, global icon status could be in the offing for both of them.

All we have to do now is get Hibbert to aim a little higher than a chance meeting with Dennis Haysbert (the dude with the golden voice on the All State commercials) and keep Hibbert, Peretti and their entourage away from Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles and the club on Jamaican Gold Night …

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including co-hosts Lang Whitaker of SLAM Magazine and Sekou Smith of NBA.com, as well as our superproducer Micah Hart of NBA.com’s All Ball Blog and the best engineer in the business, Jarell “I Heart Peyton Manning” Wall.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

LeBron Can Cap Best Year With Gold

LONDON — He didn’t have to be here.

He could have spent this summer lying on a beach somewhere as far removed from the game of basketball as humanly possible. He could have avoided the crush of being one of the four or five most recognizable people — Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, British gold medal-winning heptathlete Jessica Ennis, Kobe Bryant and royals Kate Middleton and Prince William — in this city right now.

No one would have blamed LeBron James for finally taking a little time away from his life’s passion. After a decade of chasing a legacy, and a championship, he finally secured his title, leading the Miami Heat past Oklahoma City in The Finals. James won his third NBA regular season MVP award and snagged a Finals MVP to add to his treasure chest.

With a chance to add a gold medal to his 2012 haul Sunday in the Olympic final against Spain, James is attempting to add an extra layer on top of a cake already drowning in icing. Only Michael Jordan has had a comparable season, piling up all of the aforementioned honors, and that came 20 years ago when he led the Chicago Bulls to the second of what would be six NBA titles and then spent his summer dazzling the world while leading the original Dream Team to gold in the Barcelona Olympics.

Even on a team filled with superstars, James is the headliner and biggest star, playing in a comfort zone and an elite level no one else in this competition or beyond can match.

And now he’s got a chance to cap his best year with gold in a rematch of the 2008 gold meal game in Beijing won by the U.S. Team.

“I don’t think you could have written this script any better for him,” said U.S. forward Kevin Durant, dazzling in his own right throughout this competition, and James’ chief rival with the Thunder during the NBA season. “I’m sure that would be fine for him, the way this has all played out so far. You can’t beat that right there.”

In just two short years, James has gone from the daunting task of trying to live up to expectations few athletes of any generation have ever had to literally winning it all.

Having his best year after his toughest year has to make this current run even for James.

“I would have hoped that this would be it,” James said of the moment, the year, when it all came together. “I would be able to compete for a championship, and win a championship in the NBA. And also be a part of this team and compete for a gold medal. If I would have had to map it out it would have been like this … it’s going in the right direction.”

(more…)

U.S. Feeling Right At Home In London!

LONDON — Carmelo Anthony is one of many athletes wearing a U.S. uniform in this Olympics who finds London to his liking.

After participating in the Olympics in both Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008, he is finding the adjustment to this city much different from either of those previous locales.

Anthony has had distinct experiences each and every time as one of just three players in history, along with LeBron James and David Robinson, to play on three different Olympic teams.

“That’s a very proud moment for me,” Anthony said. “I’ve been on three different teams. In 2004 where USA Basketball was just trash and we were at the bottom and everybody was saying that the rest of the world was better than us. Then in 2008 when we came back and redeemed ourselves and put together one of the best teams ever and won a gold medal. And even now, to combine two teams that has some of the guys from the 2010 World Championship team with some of the guys from [2008], it’s just that much better.”

Even better this time around for Anthony is the comfort level off the court, in an English-speaking country that reminds Anthony of his normal surroundings.

“We talked about it, it’s a different vibe over here,” Anthony said. “We feel right at home. It’s a lot like New York. You’re out and it’s so diverse. You have so many different people and all of the different languages, but the main language is English and we can dine out and talk with different people and still feel the comfort of home at the same time. And we’re only six hours from New York so we’re really just right across the water.”

Not Exactly A Fair Fight … But Close?

LONDON — Anyone searching for the biggest difference between the basketball competition at the Olympics 20 years ago in Barcelona to now need only scan the rosters and check off the list of NBA players each team can claim.

When the Dream Team suited up they had twice as many active NBA players (11) than the rest of the field combined (five). Fast forward to the competition that kicks off here Sunday and there are 41 current NBA players (59 total when you count former NBA players) on the different rosters and just 12 of those players (we’re counting No. 1 overall Draft pick and Hornets rookie Anthony Davis, since he’s already signed his rookie contract) are on the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team.

In fact, when the U.S. tangles with France in their opener Sunday, it will mark one of at least several times when potentially all 10 starters on the floor are current NBA players.

“It’s a different world in that respect,” Carmelo Anthony said. “I didn’t really think about it like that.”

A different world with different factors that aren’t lost on U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski, an assistant with the gold medal winning team in 1992.

The U.S. team is facing a France team that boasts not only Spurs All-Star point guard Tony Parker, but also quality NBA players in Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum, Clippers forward Ronny Turiaf, Spurs swingman Boris Diaw and guard Nando de Colo and Wizards center Kevin Seraphin.

(more…)