Posts Tagged ‘Erazem Lorbek’

Secrets to USA’s, Coach K’s success

Mike Krzyzewski (left, with Jim Boeheim) cites his college ties as one reason he has had such success with Team USA. (USA Today images)

Team USA and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski (left, with Team USA assistant and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim) says his college ties have helped him with NBA players. (USA Today images)

BARCELONA — When a team rings up 61 straight wins during international competition, including the World Cup/World Championship and Olympics (and throwing in exhibitions), there are a number of factors involved.

Having the best and most star-studded roster every time you to take the floor helps. But the U.S. National Team has had more than just raw talent on its side.

During the Jerry Colangelo-Mike Krzyzewski era, the U.S. also has had a precise plan on how to structure the program, from the ground up, and a clear-cut understanding of the nuances that make the international game different from the NBA. The Americans also have had intense international scouting and have nurtured a revamped mindset among the players who make the up the pool upon which the roster is built.

With Colangelo, USA Basketball’s managing director, setting the overall operational tone, Coach K insists there are overlooked aspects of the program which allow him to do things differently than many of his NBA predecessors. For one, Krzyzewski’s extensive experience in a one-and-done tournament format helps, especially with NBA players who are used to best-of playoff series.

But Krzyzewski also points to this: Though he has been courted by NBA teams on several occasions, Coach K will almost certainly never take an NBA job where he would have to try to beat some of these players.

“I don’t coach against my players,” Krzyzewski said after the U.S. practice Monday at Palau Saint Jordi, where the Americans were preparing for Tuesday’s quarterfinal matchup against Slovenia (3 p.m. ET, ESPN). “I’m not a pro coach. [Syracuse coach] Jim [Boeheim] and I have the respect of these guys because of doing well in college basketball. But we can develop our own individual relationships with them and then never compete against them. I think that’s been a hidden factor of success in all this stuff.”

Krzyzewski, of course, knows a thing or two about operating under the pressure of constant win-it-all expectations. He knows all about trying to live up to the hype of a team that’s supposed to play perfect all the time.

“I’ve lived with that for 25 years as the Duke coach,” he said. “I’m the most prepared to do that because we’re closely scrutinized like that in college basketball for everything we do. But this is at a much higher level. Actually it helps that I’m coming from that environment. I also think it helps, when we’re in this competition, the one-and-done, what we live all the time, whether it be an ACC tournament or a NCAA tournament, so I’ve been in 150 to 200 one-and-done games. We try to tell our players it’s the seventh game of a series. About half of them have been in a seventh game, so they don’t think it’s a series. We’re not just going to be in Madrid. We have to win to get there.”

As for what keeps him going, grinding like this on both the USA Basketball front and during his regular job at Duke,  Coach K said it’s a combination of things that he learned long ago.

“It’s your watch, it’s your responsibility,” he said. “That’s something I learned at West Point. It’s your job right now. Do it the right way. And eventually someone else will have that job. But while you’re in command, make sure your unit does it the right way. And Jerry has set that example. We’ve tried to learn and we keep learning.”

World geography

A reporter trying to get a rise out of U.S. big man DeMarcus Cousins as the U.S. exited the floor from practice, quizzing the Sacramento Kings star on world geography:

“Do you know where Slovenia is?” the reporter asked.

“Do you know where Alabama is?’ Cousins replied.

Forget the friendly

The U.S. has already seen Slovenia on the court this summer. The Americans beat Slovenia 101-71 in an Aug. 26 exhibition game in Gran Canaria.

Led by Phoenix Suns All-NBA point guard Goran Dragic and his brother Zoran, Slovenia will present the U.S. with a style change that will likely cause Coach K to tinker with his rotation to make sure the U.S. can match up with a small-ball lineup.

“The very first thing you have to do is forget the friendly,” Coach K said. “They were holding their guys back and Goran was held down in minutes that game. They’ve gotten better and he’s become even more of a factor as the leader of the team. We’ve gotten better, too. But we just have to focus on the fact that they are an unusual team in that they can put five 3-point shooters on the court.”

Chasing history

This U.S. team is not only trying to win gold on Spain’s home turf, it is also trying to make a little history by becoming just the third nation to repeat as World Champs. Only Brazil (1959 and 1963) and Yugoslavia (1998 and 2002) have accomplished that feat since the event was initiated in 1950.

The U.S. is a four-time champion but never has been able to put together back-to-back titles.

Blair Comes Cheap, Motivated





HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – A lot of money is being thrown at free agent big men this summer.

Kevin Garnett is getting $34 million more from the Celtics. Roy Hibbert is getting a max deal from either the Blazers or Pacers. Omer Asik will be getting $25 million from the Rockets or Bulls. Ersan Ilyasova is getting $45 million from the Bucks. Ryan Anderson is getting about $35 million from the Hornets. And now it sounds like Brook Lopez is getting a max deal, whether he plays for the Nets or Magic next season.

So what would you say about the idea of paying $1.1 million for a big man who played almost 1,400 minutes for the best team in the league last season?

DeJuan Blair was a feel-good story for the San Antonio Spurs. He was taken 37th in the 2009 Draft and quickly became a contributor for a title contender, despite his lack of ACLs.

But Blair was replaced in the Spurs’ rotation by Boris Diaw late last season, and he played just 77 minutes in the playoffs. Then, there were reports that the Spurs might bring over Slovenian big man Erazem Lorbek next season, possibly pushing Blair further down the depth chart.

Lorbek looks to be re-signing with FC Barcelona, but Blair still thinks his days in San Antonio are numbered. (more…)

Macedonia Shocks Lithuania, Joins Spain In Semifinals At EuroBasket

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The quarterfinal round got off to an explosive (and rousing, for one country) start Wednesday, thanks to our friends from Macedonia …

(NBA.com’s John Schuhmann recapped Wednesday’s first game, Spain’s 86-64 win over Slovenia, below.)

Macedonia 67, Lithuania 65 (Box Score)

Vlado Ilievski‘s 3-pointer (off an assist from Bo McCalebb) with 11 seconds left pushed Macedonia ahead and they held on to pull off one of the most shocking upsets in EuroBasket history, knocking off host nation Lithuania before a raucous crowd in a hostile environment. Ilievski (12 points) and McCalebb (23 points) had plenty of company in the heroes corner in the Macedonia locker room after the game. Vojdan Stojanovski who didn’t miss a single shot, he was 5-for-5 from beyond the 3-point line, finishing with 15 points.

“This is a huge win for us. We are very happy,” Stojanovksi said. “I think we played very well and we deserved this win. I have to thank our playmakers because they put me in a position to have open shots. I was confident of making them. Spain will be a tough team but we have proved that we can beat good teams in this tournament.”

(more…)

Slovenia Snags Final Quarterfinal Spot

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Six teams put the finishing touches on second round play at EuroBasket 2011 Monday in Lithuania.

But there was only one quarterfinal spot remaining in Group F play …

Slovenia 67, Finland 60 (Box Score)

The directive was simple for the Slovenia, win or go home. They did exactly what had to be done against Finland, aesthetics be darned. Sure, it wasn’t one of the prettier games played in this competition. But it was a win. And those have been tough to come by for Slovenia lately. Uros Slokar turned in a near-flawless effort off the bench with 13 points, eight rebounds and no turnovers in 22 minutes to spark Slovenia. Erazem Lorbek (14 points and six rebounds) and Zoran Dragic (10 points and four rebounds) delivered as well.

“Before the game we just told ourselves to relax and think how we can enjoy the game again,” Slokar said. “Go on the floor and try to be more relaxed. I think that’s something we managed to do. Finland played good but we kept them on a low score and that’s the key for our wins. Spain is favorite against any team in this tournament, but our goals are different than theirs. We will try to win and give 100 percent to win. If that would be enough it’s great, and if not we’re still going to be happy with the result because we gave 100 percent.”

With the win Slovenia earned a date against defending champion Spain, winners of Group E. So the challenge for Slovenia remains. And they’ll have to stay focused the entire way to have a chance against Spain, something they struggled to do against Finland. It took six straight points from Lorbek to hold off a Finland rally in the fourth quarter.

(more…)

Macedonia Does It Again At EuroBasket

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Macedonia’s magical run in Lithuania continued during Day 2 of the second round at EuroBasket 2011, one of three games on the schedule in Group F action.

We’ve been talking up Bo McCalebb and his boys for a while now and they’re making it hard to stop talking about them …

Macedonia 65, Georgia 63 (Box Score)

While he is far from a one-man show, McCalebb did everything humanly possible to secure victory for Macedonia in this matchup. The final two of his game-high 27 points came with :00.2 to play in a nail-biter. McCalebb has become every bit the force for his team that Tony Parker has been for France in this competition, proving virtually unstoppable at times throughout the past nine days. McCalebb, the only player on the Macedonia roster to score more than eight points in this game, also finished with four assists and four steals.

Without Zaza Pachulia (calf injury) in uniform to man the middle, Georgia seemed completely out of sync for most of this game. Nikoloz Tskitishvili picked up the slack, finishing with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Viktor Sanikidze added 15 points and seven rebounds but also committed seven of Georgia’s whopping 20 turnovers.

They haven’t officially sealed the deal yet, but the quarterfinals look like a very realistic expectation for Macedonia at this point. Staying completely in the moment and handling the opponent at hand while not thinking about trying to make history has worked for Macedonia to this point, so there is no reason for them to look beyond Saturday’s game against Slovenia.

Russia 79, Finland 60 (Box Score)

Not every game in this competition is going to be a fair fight. And this certainly was one of those games that appeared unfair from very early on. Russia was simply better than Finland in virtually every aspect. The two-headed monster of Andrei Kirilenko (14 points, four rebounds and four steals) and Viktor Kryhapa (11 assists) led the way for powerful Russia.

Russia’s dominance inside was evident early on and executed by the likes of Timofey Mozgov, who finished with 11 points, four rebounds and two blocks. Russia outscored Finland a staggering 52-18 in the paint. Russia’s lead reached 20 points after halftime and they cruised down the stretch.

If you need an illustration of just how powerful this Russia team can be, they won going away while making just one of their 10 three-pointers. They were also careless with the ball (19 turnovers), yet they still managed 22 assists to Finland’s nine.

Greece 69, Slovenia 60 (Box Score)

Greece showed some serious finishing kick, outscoring Slovenia 25-14 in the fourth quarter to seal this extremely important win and move a step closer to making their way to the quarterfinals. Nikolaos Zisis had the big game for Greece, draining two huge 3-pointers down the stretch to help the winners finish this one off. Zisis scored a game-high 19 points and was the only player from Greece to finish in double figures. But he received plenty of help from a deep bench, including seven points and a team-high nine rebounds from Kostas Koufos.

This game wasn’t the prettiest one played in this competition, particularly for Slovenia. They never did find the right shooting touch. they made just 38 percent of their shots from the floor, and that includes a dismal 24 percent (6-for-25) effort from beyond the 3-point line. Erazem Lorbek and Goran Dragic were a combined 6-for-17 from the floor and just 1-for-8 from distance.

Long-distance shooting is essentially what won this game for Greece. They made nine of their 17 shots from long-range and nailed them down the stretch, those two from Zisis and another dagger from Antonios Fotsis to put the game away late. The very best teams in this competition have shown an ability to win games when they are clicking from deep and by going inside if they are not. Greece has the ability to do both.

*** Friday’s slate of games in Group E should be as explosive as any we’ve seen so far in this competition. Spain and Serbia, Germany and Turkey, and Lithuania and France get after each other to finish the work week. ***