Posts Tagged ‘London Olympics 2012’

Hello Again, My Name Is Kevin Love!



VIDEO: All-Access look at the Wolves’ season-opener

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Sometimes a reintroduction is necessary.

For Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star power forward Kevin Love, who went off for 31 points and 17 rebounds in his team’s 120-115 OT win over the Orlando Magic Wednesday night, the season-opener was a reintroduction and a reminder that he’s among the NBA’s best players at his position and overall, too.

Love has been a forgotten man of sorts in the lead up to this season. When injuries limit you to just a combined 73 games in each of the past two seasons, you are the mercy of the what-have-you-done-lately crowd. Aside from some stellar post-work for the gold medal-winning U.S. Team at the London Olympics, we haven’t seen a ton of the Love we saw against the Magic.

The fierce rebounder, inside-out scorer and clutch performer who was on display at the Target Center is a different monster than the Love we saw a couple of seasons ago. He’s older (if 25 counts as older), wiser and much more in tune with not only his own game but with the Timberwolves will need from him if they are going to give serious chase to the playoff bid they’ve been talking about in the Twin Cities all summer.

The supporting cast finally looks solid with Ricky Rubio, Dante Cunningham, Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic, Derrick Williams, Alexey Shved, Corey Brewer and J.J. Barea, to name basically the entire core group, helping fight the playoff-chase fight.

Love will be the workhorse, of course.

But he’ll need each and every one of those other guys to deliver the Timberwolves from the lottery perch they have occupied for years. Because if we’ve learned anything from observing Love and his All-Star peers in recent seasons, we’ve learned that it takes a small village of stars and quality role players to raise a franchise out of the abyss.

It’s funny, though, how quickly people tend to forget. After the 2011-12 season, there was a healthy debate about whether Love, the L.A. Clippers’ Blake Griffin or the Portland Trail Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge — all of whom are All-Stars — would be the best young power forward in the game by now. They have all accomplished a great deal, individually, the past few seasons, solidifying their positions at the position for the foreseeable future.

But I’d argue that Love, when healthy, eases ahead of both Griffin and Aldridge with a complete game that the other two are still working to polish. He rebounds better than both, scores in more ways (courtesy of range that extends well beyond the 3-point line), while stepping up in clutch situations like a player who has spent twice as many seasons in the league than he actually has.

As long as Love stays healthy, the Timberwolves’ playoff dream lives on!


VIDEO: Kevin Love and the Timberwolves handle the Magic in overtime

U.S. Surges Past Spain Late, Claims Second Straight Olympic Gold Medal

LONDON – When it was all over, when the game was finished and the smiles had replaced looks of concern and after Bruce Springsteen‘s “Born in the USA” had served as the soundtrack for a crowd loving every minute of this billion-dollar collection of NBA stars wrapped up in American flags bowing for the audience, they locked arms, rose as one and stepped onto the medal stand to claim their prize.

The U.S. Men’s Senior National Team completed its gold medal mission Sunday, holding off a feisty Spain team 107-100 at North Greenwich Arena  in the Olympic final to claim a matching gold medal for the one they captured four years ago in Beijing. The difference between pure joy and relief, though, is hard to make out with the stars and stripes covering their faces.

“Anytime you’re going for a championship there is a sense of relief, especially when you win,” Deron Williams said. “It’s been a long five weeks for us. We’ve been on the road since July 5th and it’s good to know that you’ve finished what you started.”

They actually completed a mission that started eight years ago with a blueprint to resurrect a USA Basketball program that had fallen on hard times after coming up empty in quests for gold at the 2002 World Championship in Indianapolis and the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

(more…)

U.S.-Spain Game Blog!

LONDON — UPDATE 12:17 p.m. Medal ceremony going on right now. U.S. clad in smooth black warm ups to snag their gold medals. They won 107-100 to claim their second straight Olympic gold over Spain.

To repeat or not to repeat: that is the question facing the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team today, just minutes away from their gold medal rematch with Spain in the Olympic finals.

(Sorry, but a visit to London without at least one Billy Shakespeare reference would have been a travesty. We had to go there.)

They did this four years ago, playing a to-the-wire game in Beijing that the U.S. pulled out late for a 118-107 victory that both sides have had four long years to think about.

You know Spain’s big man brother duo of Pau and Marc Gasol have been thinking about it and hearing about it since then, especially Pau (something tells me Kobe Bryant has brought it up a time or two over the years).

Spain actually had one distinct advantage over the U.S. four years ago, in that the core group of their roster had been playing together for years, “since they were 12 or 13,” according to point guard Jose Calderon.

The U.S. has closed that gap. USA Basketball’s program is as solid as it’s been in years and arguably ever, courtesy of the commitment of guys like Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant and others.

A second straight gold medal validates everything USA Basketball chairman and managing director Jerry Colangelo and U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski have worked to build since taking over the program after the debacle at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

(more…)

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…)

Kobe: LA Is a Better Fit For Howard

LONDON – Until earlier today, Dwight Howard‘s entire NBA career was spent in a Orlando Magic uniform.

But Kobe Bryant didn’t need to Howard him in purple and gold to know that he’s a better fit in Los Angeles and with the Lakers, on and off the court, than he ever was in Orlando.

The job of blending Howard’s game into what the Lakers will do with a star-studded lineup that also includes two-time MVP Steve Nash and All-Star power forward Pau Gasol is ultimately the responsibility of Lakers coach Mike Brown.

Bryant said it won’t be an issue.

“He’s not going to have to sacrifice much,” Bryant said. “He’ll get more touches here than he did in Orlando. I know, it sounds weird to say, but it’s true. We do a great job playing through the post and playing through Pau … I mean, it’s going to be sensational.”

With one of the premier distributors in the game manning the controls in Nash, there should be plenty of shots for everyone. In fact, the Lakers, at least their top six rotation, will look like an All-Star team. Big 3 or 4? They’ve got a few more, what with Ron Artest and Antawn Jamison in the mix as well.

It’s a lineup that Bryant teammates on the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team never thought they’d see.

“We joked around about it a little bit during the summer,” Bryant said. “The consensus was there was no way we could get Dwight and still keep Pau, and they all love Pau for us. So they were like, ‘there is no way you’re going to let Pau go, and therefore you can’t Dwight.’ And I was like, ‘I think we can make that happen.’ We got Pau for virtually nothing [when we traded for him]. History does repeat itself.”

What Bryant is really looking forward to, though, is the future. Now that the season and summer of speculation is over and the Lakers have what could be a championship contender, training camp is already on his mind.

“It helps because you start getting into a frame of mind of what your team is going to look like,” he said.

He might have said it best earlier, when he said, “it’s going to be sensational.”

U.S. Whips Argentina 109-83, Move On To Gold Medal Game Against Spain





LONDON – The U.S. Men’s Senior National Team is one step away from accomplishing its summer mission.

A win in Sunday’s gold medal game against Spain will validate all of the hard work, all of the sacrifice and all of the sweat expended in a pursuit to restore a nation’s proud basketball tradition.

And there will be a day to celebrate it all, provided it happens in the proper way.

But this was not that day.

Friday’s Olympic semifinals were overshadowed by the one man whose name has been able to block out all other things whenever it’s been mentioned this year, and no, it’s not reigning NBA and Finals MVP LeBron James.

Dwight Howard is now officially a member of the Los Angeles Lakers after Friday’s four-team blockbuster was cleared by the league, the fourth and perhaps final piece in a championship puzzle alongside Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol.

Only Bryant and Gasol were in North Greenwich Arena for the semifinals, Gasol and Spain  defeating Russia in the first game 67-59 and Bryant at the U.S. demolishing Argentina 109-83. All of the questions, it seemed,were about were about Howard and the impact he’ll have not only on the Lakers, but on the entire landscape of the league nowt hat he’s moving into the locker room at Staples Center and Andrew Bynum is moving into the locker room at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

(more…)

Gasol’s Summer Keeps Getting Better

LONDON – If the good times keep on rolling like this, Pau Gasol isn’t going to want to see this summer end.

On the same day Gasol led Spain from 13 points down to a win over Russia in the first of two semifinals here at the Olympics, he found out that the Lakers put the finishing touches on a blockbuster deal that will pair he and All-Star center Dwight Howard in a revamped frontcourt that will be the envy of the NBA. Add all that to the Steve Nash sign-and-trade deal from last month and the realization that Gasol’s name will no longer come up in trade rumors (it ended up being Andrew Bynum) and things couldn’t get much better.

Well, there is always that game Sunday and a potential matchup against his good friend and teammate Kobe Bryant and the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team, and those other two high-profile teammates back in the States watching all of the action unfold.

It’s a decent rebound summer for a guy whose name had come up in so many trade rumors over the past two years that it made it hard not to internalize all of the chatter. Instead of heading elsewhere, Gasol will be a central figure on a Lakers team that vaults into the mix with Miami and Oklahoma City as favorites to win the 2012-13 NBA title.

Most importantly, Gasol will stay put in Los Angeles for at least the foreseeable future.

“That’s big news, big news.” Gasol said after Spain’s 67-59 win over Russia. “That’s huge. I’ve been involved in so many talks and so many rumors, we all know that. After a while I’ve been able to block it out. So I feel relieved. And I’m anxious and excited with our team, fully committed and fully focused on working extremely hard and just our team as much as I can.”

(more…)

A Rivalry Renewed: U.S. And Argentina Set To Face Off … One Last Time?

LONDON – After a decade of circling each other, five times in five different tournaments during that span, it comes down to this for the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team and their counterparts from Argentina.

Only one of them will play for a gold medal here Sunday in the Olympics.

And whoever gets that chance will have to go through their bitter rival in the semifinals Friday afternoon (4 p.m. ET) at North Greenwich Arena.

It’s a fitting crossroads for the two programs. After all, Argentina is the outfit that shocked the USA Basketball system a decade ago at the 2002 World Championship in Indianapolis, shattering a previous decade of domination by NBA players on the national team rosters by embarrassing that team on home soil.

They’re reaffirmed the initial blow two years later by going through the U.S. Team in the semifinals on the way to gold in the Athens Olympics. That death-blow jolted USA Basketball into a complete reorganization of the program that saw both managing director and chairman Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski come on board.

When the U.S. finally returned the favor in Beijing four years ago, finishing off Argentina in the semifinals on the way to Olympic gold, it was clear both sides would spend the next four years pining for a moment like the one that is upon them now.

Argentina’s aging core group, led by Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni and Carlos Delfino, is believed to be making this one last stand together. The instigators of a basketball revolution in their native land, this could very well be the last time they take the floor together in Olympic competition.

“We know who those guys are,” said Ginobili, Argentina’s fearless leader. “We are not intimidated when we play against them.”

That fact only adds to the intrigue for the core of the U.S. Team, guys like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and even Kevin Durant.

They’d love to put the Argentina chapter of USA Basketball’s history to rest.

“Why not? Why not?” Anthony said without so much as a whiff of cockiness in his voice. “We have to play them. Something has to happen. Why not end it [now]?”

(more…)

U.S.: “Still Haven’t Shown Our Best”

LONDON — We’ve seen its flashes, those breathtaking bursts of fury the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team can unleash on the opposition.

Sometimes it comes in the form of the 3-point storm Carmelo Anthony helped unleash on Nigeria in pool play. Or sometimes, it is the one Kobe Bryant put on Australia in the quarterfinals or a LeBron James/Kevin Durant-induced knockout blow on either end of the floor, an occurrence in more than a couple of games here so far.

Yet, as good as they have been on their grind towards the medal round of this Olympic tournament, the scary part for Argentina, Spain and Russia is that the U.S. team hasn’t played their best. To a man, the U.S. Team is convinced that they haven’t come close to playing up to their immense potential.

“That’s the crazy part, man,” Durant said. “We have another level we can go to on both ends of the floor. We’ve shown it here and there. For us to sustain it throughout a whole game, though, we still haven’t seen that. The challenge is us trying to do it. We’ll get another crack at it against Argentina and we’ll see if we can do it.”

(more…)

Bryant Catches Fire, U.S Set For Semifinal Showdown With Argentina

LONDON — Kobe Bryant normally lives for these moments.

The big moment, on the big stage, with the whole world watching.

But save for a vintage few minutes in a win over Nigeria during pool play, his time here for the Olympics had been more about his presence away from the court than it had been on his in-game exploits with the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team.

He popped in at Wimbledon to see some tennis, strode over to the beach volleyball venue to see friends get after it and he even made it to the velodrome Tuesday night to cheer on fellow athletes chasing gold in their respective disciplines.

It wasn’t until the second half Wednesday night, with Australia making a run against the U.S. in a quarterfinal matchup at North Greenwich Arena, that the Bryant Los Angeles Lakers and NBA fans have known for the better part of the past decade made his debut in this competition.

His six straight 3-pointers, a staggering four in 75 seconds during a backbreaking fourth-quarter run, proved to be the sparked needed to push the U.S. past Australia 119-86 and into a Friday night semifinal rematch with rival Argentina, an 82-77 winner over Brazil in the first game of the evening session.

“We we were right there with them,” said Australian forward David Andersen. “And then Kobe starts shooting and making those [3-pointers] and it’s raining down on us. No team really has answers for that. “

(more…)