The big men for Team USA have key to its success in the World Cup. (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
BARCELONA — Playing the underdog is one thing.
But being disrespected?
That’s something U.S. National Team forward Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets) cannot tolerate. Not at home and certainly not on the other side of the world here in the FIBA World Cup.
Faried took offense to the suggestion that the U.S. big men — he and Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond and Mason Plumlee — will no longer dominate the opposition now that they are down to their final two games of this competition.
“Massively direspectful,” Faried said after practice Wednesday at Palau Saint Jordi when it was suggested that the dominant run for the U.S. bigs was over. “We’ll have to see tomorrow, I guess.”
Lithuania’s frontline, led by Jonas Valanciunas (Toronto Raptors), is next up in Thursday’s semifinal. And Brazil and Spain, with their deep frontcourts loaded with NBA big men could await in the gold medal game Sunday in Madrid.
The battle of bigs Thursday, though, is first up on the priority list. And Lithuania, unlike quarterfinal victim Slovenia Tuesday night, had no answers for Faried, Davis and the crew.
The U.S. dominated the offensive boards (23) and controlled the action as a result of their relentless work on the boards early.
“Coach definitely wants all the bigs to get offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, and wants every rebound to be ours so they only get one shot,” Davis said. “So that’s what me, Kenneth, DeMarcus, Rudy (Gay), that’s all we try to do; Andre and Mason, just try and get every rebound.”
Valanciunas had grabbed 13 in Lithuania’s quarterfinal win over Turkey, outworking Omer Asik (New Orleans Pelicans) en route to a monstrous rebounding performance.
“He’s, so far, going to be the best low-post presence that we’ve faced,” U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He gets a piece of the paint in numerous ways. And he’s a great offensive rebounder. Not a good one, but a great one. And I think he’s a tough guy to match up with. Just the opposite when you’re trying to match up on the perimeter when their bigs take you outside. Thes guys take you inside and trying to outrebound them will be a challenge for our team.”
A challenge Faried says he and his U.S. counterparts are more than ready for.
“He’s a good big, and he’s going to be a force down there,” he said of Valanciunas. “But we’re ready for him. We’re ready for whatever.”
Coach K mum on Deng, Ferry
Krzyzewski said that he would rather not comment on the goings on back home involving two of his former players at Duke, Miami Heat forward Luol Deng and Hawks general manager Danny Ferry, who are at the center of controversy involving racist comments Ferry uttered on a conference call earlier this summer.
Ferry has been disciplined internally by the Hawks and Deng has already released his statement in response to the firestorm Ferry’s statement caused.
“I’m not up to date or whatever you want to call it,” he said. “I am not abreast … I’m just not there, so I don’t want to comment on anything that I don’t know anything about. I don’t know much about it … so I’d rather not comment on it.”
Splash Bros to the rescue
If one Splash Brother struggles, you can count on the other to pick up the slack. Klay Thompson‘s 20-point performance in the win over Slovenia came on the heels of Steph Curry‘s 20-point effort in Saturday’s win over Mexico.
Thompson has stepped up to any and all defensive challenges as well, digging in on opposing perimeter players and showing himself to be a more than capable one-on-one stopper for a U.S. team that didn’t necessarily have a specialist to fill that role, at least on paper.
“Klay has been a consistent high-level performer for us,” Coach K said. “He’s just doing what he does in the NBA, and that’s being an outstanding player. He can hit shots but he can really play defense. We knew that when we started trials that he would be a valuable, valuable … A number of these guys are like having starters in there all the time, but Klay has accepted his role really well.”