Posts Tagged ‘Nigeria’

Morning shootaround — Aug. 2


Stoudemire reflects on Knicks heyday | Wade says James was surprised Wade got on open market | Anthony steps up as leader for Team USA

No. 1: Stoudemire reflects on career, Knicks heyday — While his NBA playing days officially ended last week, former All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire isn’t ready to hang it up altogether just yet. In a news conference with the New York Knicks yesterday, Stoudemire announced he will be playing for a team in Israel next year. Before that next chapter begins, Stoudemire took time to pen an essay about his career on The Players Tribune in which he remembered his Knicks days, playing along side Steve Nash and Shaquille O’Neal and more:

It was December 15, 2010. I had just scored 30 or more points for the ninth straight game — a Knicks record. Madison Square Garden was alive — I mean alive— cheering for me, cheering for us. I’d never heard anything like it. I’d never heard love like that before. For the first time in a long time, the Knicks were a team to be reckoned with. We lost by two that night (and only after my three had been waived off at the buzzer) to the Celtics. But more importantly, there was an awakening. Not just in MSG, but in the entire city.

Everyone was going to our games. And if they couldn’t go to the games, they were going to bars to watch them. People were enjoying themselves before and partying after. I swear we single-handedly revived New York’s economy. We were rock stars — me and Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov and the rest of the team. Obviously, being celebrities wasn’t our job. It was fun, but our No. 1 job was to be great basketball players — to win. Still, you can’t beat being a rock star.

Millions of kids dream of playing in the NBA. Not many make it there. An even smaller number get to hear thousands of people chant “M-V-P!”

Let’s start with where it all started, in Phoenix, with Stephon Marbury. I was his rookie. He took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. Too many people forget that he was an All-Star, a max-contract player. For a player that great to take me under his wing, it just meant so much to me.

Then there’s Steve Nash. Before he arrived, we already had a pretty strong nucleus in myself, Joe Johnson, Shawn Marion and Leandro Barbosa. When we brought Steve on board, we reached a whole new level. Everyone else fed off him. Once you have a pass-first point guard, a guy who just focuses on getting the ball to where it needs to be —who’s just making his teammates better — it opens up the entire game.

We redefined the game of basketball. Before us, the center position was more like Shaq or Karl Malone. We didn’t have that size, but we had speed. Mike D’Antoni made a decision to go small. Teams weren’t ready for it. They weren’t ready for Seven Seconds or Less.

I don’t know how Steve made some of those passes. In the heat of the moment on the court, you don’t really appreciate a great pass. But once I got a chance to watch the replay, either on the jumbotron or in film sessions, I’d go up to him and say, “That was a hell of a pass!”

Steve was one of the best passers and shooters the game has ever seen, and I had the best seat in the house to watch him work. Steve took my game to a whole new level. He showed me what it meant to be a leader.

Can’t forget about the big fella, neither: Shaq. I idolized him growing up. And I got to play with him in Phoenix in ’08 and ’09. We did work, too. I was putting up insane numbers thanks to him and all the attention teams had to give him.

I got to play a bit this year with Dwyane Wade, yet another Hall of Famer. He keeps his dribble so low to the ground, and he’s deceptively quick.

Last, but definitely not least, Carmelo Anthony. I think he’s the best pure scorer in the NBA. It just comes so easy to him. When he’s at his best, he’s playing an entirely different game than the rest of us. That night when he scored 62 at the Garden, that was easy for him. He could have gotten 70, maybe more. He just flowed out there on the court. That’s what the game is all about, getting to a level like Carmelo is on. When a great player performs like that, it’s fun to watch. I should know, I was there.


No. 2: Wade says LeBron couldn’t believe Wade entered free agency — After spending his entire career with the Miami Heat, guard Dwyane Wade will spend next season with the Chicago Bulls after signing with them in free agency. The move stunned many across the NBA as Wade was perhaps the player most associated with the Heat in franchise history. In an interview with ESPN over the weekend, Wade revealed how his choice went down and how one former teammate was stunned Wade was even allowed to get to that point in free agency. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel has more:

Dwyane Wade essentially condensed his decision to leave the Miami Heat into eight words during an interview that aired Sunday on ESPN: “They made a choice; I made a choice.”

And yet, with those eight words, clarity, more than three weeks after his decision to depart for the Chicago Bulls in NBA free agency, remained in limited regarding the end of his 13-year tenure with the team that drafted him in 2003.

“My time, the clock ticked out on me,” Wade said in the interview recorded in the wake of his Friday introduction to the media at the Bulls’ practice facility. “And whether they felt it, whether they wanted to do it, I did. And I respectfully walk away saying I tip my hat to their organization and to the city for embracing me and giving me the platform to be great. And I did that. I was great. It will always be there. But I’ve got more things to do.”

Between Wade’s departure from the Heat and introduction in Chicago, Heat President Pat Riley said of not taking an active involvement in the negotiations, “The buck really stops here. I’m not trying to fall on the sword for anybody. I have great regret that I didn’t put myself in the middle of it.”

Wade’s response in the ESPN interview after that quote was read to him was, “We all have choices. We make our choices.”

As he previously had done, Wade did not cast it as a clash of personalities with Riley.

“I respect Pat Riley to the fullest for what he’s done in this game, you know, drafting me, when a lot of people didn’t believe I was going to be as great as I’ve become,” he said. “But in this situation, we all have choices. So we choose not to put ourselves in the situation. He wasn’t the sole reason I left at all, but it was his choice.”


…Wade also reflected on being on vacation in Spain with former Heat teammate LeBron James and their mutual friend Chris Paul, the Los Angeles Clippers guard, amid his free-agency issues with the Heat.

“I think they were in disbelief that I didn’t have any deal that I wanted,” he said. “They just were, ‘Why are you even a free agent? You shouldn’t even be.’ ”

He added of that time alongside James, who was coming off his NBA championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers. and Paul, “The biggest thing that came back from both of them was, ‘Follow your heart. Whatever you want you want to do, we’re going to support, we’re your friends. But there’s a reason you’re having these thoughts: follow your heart.’ “


No. 3: Anthony becomes leader of Team USA — The U.S. men’s national team wrapped up its exhibition schedule last night with a 110-66 romp against Nigeria in Houston. That moved Team USA to a perfect 5-0 in the warm-up portion of its schedule for the 2016 Olympics in Rio where the team will be the decided favorites against the rest of the field. Our Fran Blinebury was on hand last night and reports on how Carmelo Anthony is driving this current quest for gold:

Put the basketball into Carmelo Anthony‘s hands and it’s like watching a bird fly, a fish swim.

He knows what to do and how to do it and, to listen to him after Team USA closed out its cruising-over-America tour Monday night and now heads off to Rio for his fourth Olympic Games, there’s nothing new to see.

“I think (my role) is the same,” Anthony said after his 19 points led the way in a 110-66 thumping of Nigeria. “I think it’s to go out there to be myself and not be nobody else. Not try to do more than I have to. You do a little bit of a lot when it comes down to it. I feel comfortable in these situations, regardless of what type of game or style of play that these teams are going to bring to us. I think I’ve seen it all over all the years.”

A 20-year-old Anthony was there for the three-loss bronze bust of the 2004 Olympics in Athens that led to the total revamping of the USA Basketball program and he was there for the painful semifinal loss to Greece in the first year of the new regime at the 2006 World Championship in Japan.

Now that he’s 32 and the de facto leader of a roster that consists of so many new faces to the whole international atmosphere, it’s as if he has blossomed fully.

“The leadership comes natural to me,” Anthony said. “People are putting a lot on it because the whole world is seeing it. For me, I do this every day. It’s natural for me. It’s genuine. It’s nothing that I’m forcing myself to do. I do it every day all day. I’m the same person. I’m the same guy. Now it’s just more visible to you (media) guys because you’re seeing it a little more on my own team every season. There’s more cameras in practice now. We have practice that’s open and you guys have a chance to see how we react with one another. I think that’s the difference. I think you guys are starting to see more of me doing that rather than all through the season.”

While some of that may be true, there are signs even to some of his teammates that Anthony embraces the mantle of leader.

“Oh, he’s the guy that’s been there so much before,” said center DeMarcus Cousins. “We would all be foolish if we didn’t go to him, learn from him, lean on him as we take on this challenge. He knows the ups and downs, the little differences from this kind of game to what we all play in the NBA and those can pay off for us as we go through this.”

“Carmelo’s been sensational really as a leader and as a player, too,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “This is his fourth Olympics and his fifth USA competition. For him to use his experience. He wants everyone to be good. He knows us. He knows the international game and everyone on the team respects him. I think he’s been terrific. I thought he would be good and he’s been better. Because he’s a smart guy and he gets it.”

“I actually feel excited about the journey we’re about to take on. A new group of guys. A much younger group of guys. Before I was one of the young guys and now I’m one of the older guys on the team that has been around a couple of times. For me, knowing that we have an opportunity to do something special with a new group of guys, new faces of our country, to be a part of it, I’m excited about that.”

“I think the whole experience has helped him, even playing-wise,” said Krzyzewski. “His toughness is even better. We’re lucky that he’s with us.”

Some things change, even they won’t admit it.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Two former NBA centers chime in on the NBA retirees’ health insurance planAndrew Bogut wasn’t exactly thrilled about the lodgings in Rio … Former Sixth Man of the Year winner Ben Gordon is taking a long road to get back to the NBA

Aminu, Nigeria earn trip to 2016 Olympics

VIDEO: Aminu, Nigeria knock off Angola

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Nigeria joined Australia, Brazil and the United States in the 2016 Men’s Basketball Olympic field, beating Angola in the final of Afrobasket on Sunday. The Blazers’ Al-Farouq Aminu and D-Leaguer Ben Uzoh each scored in double-figures in the final as Nigeria won its first African championship.


Five more Olympic berths will be earned this summer, with two coming out of the FIBA Americas tournament, which begins Monday in Mexico City.


At the end of the summer, nine teams will have their tickets booked for Rio, and the Americas (4) will have twice as many teams in the field as Europe (2). Fifteen more teams will have qualified for next summer’s Olympic qualifying tournaments, which will determine the final three spots in the Olympic field.


Qualifying For ’14 World Cup Is Wide Open


HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Eurobasket has just begun and we’ve already had plenty of surprises across FIBA’s regional tournaments, with teams looking to qualify for next year’s World Cup of Basketball.

In Asia, defending champion China was knocked out in the quarterfinals. In Africa, Nigeria and Tunisia — the two teams that repped the continent in last year’s Olympics — both failed to make the semis. And in the FIBA Americas tournament, Brazil lost all four of their first-round games and was sent home after blowing a 10-point, second-half lead to Jamaica on Tuesday.

Thus far, 10 teams have their tickets punched for Spain (see below). Another 10 (four from the Americas and six from Europe) will receive automatic bids in the next 17 days. Later this year, four wild-card berths will be awarded, giving teams like China and Brazil a shot.

And if Brazil is awarded a wild-card berth, they certainly have the potential to rebound from this year’s performance and make some noise at the World Cup. They have four big men in the NBA: Nene, Tiago Splitter, Anderson Varejao and Vitor Faverani (signed by the Celtics this summer). But none of the four was in Caracas this week, leaving Marcelo Huertas without a competent big man to run the pick-and-roll with.

Their 0-4 performance was still a shock. Brazil gave the U.S. its toughest game at the 2010 World Championship and finished second to Argentina at the 2011 FIBA Americas tourney.

But give credit to Jamaica for it’s comeback, led by former Cav Samardo Samuels, who led all scorers with 21 points and who hit all nine of his fourth-quarter free throws. A pair of freebies by Akeem Scott won the game for Jamaica in the final seconds.

Brazil’s ouster gives Canada a better shot at one of the four automatic berths. The Canadians are without Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Kelly Olynyk, but went 3-1 in the first round. They still have some work to do, as the eight teams remaining in Caracas will play four games — Thursday through Sunday — against the teams they’ve yet to face, and after that, the top four teams in the standings will qualify for the semifinals and next year’s World Cup. Canada’s most important game could be Saturday against the Dominican Republic.

The lack of NBA players participating has made the FIBA Americas tournament wide open. And the same may hold true at Eurobasket, which tipped off Wednesday in Slovenia. With Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon and Rudy Fernandez on board, Spain is still the clear favorite. And France, with Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw, is a lock to get one of the other top six spots.

But after that, things will get interesting. And Exhibit A is Finland’s tourney-opening victory over Turkey, the team that made a fantastic run to the gold medal game in 2010 and has a frontline of Hedo Turkoglu, Ersan Ilyasova and Omer Asik.

If you need a basketball fix with another month to go before training camp, there’s plenty of international hoops for you over the next three weeks. NBA TV will have some games, and the others can be seen on ESPN3.

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
2 USA 2012 Olympic champion
3 Iran FIBA Asia champion
4 Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
5 Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
6 Australia FIBA Oceania champion
7 New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
8 Angola FIBA Africa champion
9 Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
10 Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
11 FIBA Americas champion
12 FIBA Americas 2nd place
13 FIBA Americas 3rd place
14 FIBA Americas 4th place
15 Eurobasket champion*
16 Eurobasket 2nd place*
17 Eurobasket 3rd place*
18 Eurobasket 4th place*
19 Eurobasket 5th place*
20 Eurobasket 6th place*
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

* If Spain finishes in the top six, the seventh place team will qualify.

USA Rolling With New Super-Sub ‘Melo

LONDON Chris Paul was to the point in the huddle.

“During one of the timeouts, I told Coach K, ‘I’m not running any other plays except the one for ‘Melo,’ ” Paul said Friday morning, before the U.S. men’s Olympic team meeting at their cozy hotel downtown. It was a third-quarter huddle of Thursday’s game with Nigeria, when Carmelo Anthony was in the process of losing his mind (scoring-wise).

Anthony is paid to score by the Knicks, so getting 37 points in a game isn’t a big deal for him. But he’s rarely been as efficient as he was in Thursday’s 156-73 (156-73! it boggles the mind and fingers just to type that!) dismembering of Nigeria at the Olympic Park Basketball Arena, helping set all manner of U.S. individual and team Olympic records. And the U.S. team is showing signs that, just as in 2008, it’s rounding into shape at just the right time to win the gold medal.

There was some concern early in the training camp process for this team about how the cores of the 2008 Olympic team and the 2010 World Championship team would blend. The ’08 “Redeem Team” that won the gold medal in Beijing featured Anthony, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James; the ’10 team that won gold in Turkey was led by the new jacks: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love. It’s not that anyone was going to be churlish about minutes; these are all mature guys. But any time a player is used to performing star turns, it’s sometimes hard to be “Guy Catching a Cab” in the closing credits.

But after Durant looked less like himself coming off the bench in the early exhibitions, Mike Krzyzewski made a switch in the starting lineup, bringing Anthony off the bench and starting Durant. Those small adjustments seem to have helped. Durant started out hot Thursday, hitting three 3-pointers in the first six minutes, and after Kobe Bryant scored 14 points early as well, they handed the baton to Anthony. He was white-hot from minute one.

“Carmelo would have like a 60-point game, I think … if we didn’t limit him,” Krzyzewski said late Thursday at the team hotel. “And the neat thing about that is that everybody on the team wanted him to shoot the ball.”

Anthony made 13 of 16 shots, including 10 of 12 from behind the arc. He’s gotten hot before, but it almost always involves some posting up or driving to the basket, where he uses his strength to get to the foul line. Thursday, though, almost all of his makes were from skeet-shooting distance. When you score 37 on 16 shots (in just 14 minutes), you’re doing it right.

“I was at a loss of words watching,” Love said. “I was telling Craig Sager, every time (Anthony) went up, I just stood up, held up three points in the air. I knew it was in. When a guy gets in a rhythm like that, everything seems to go in.” (more…)

Lithuania Thumps Nigeria 72-53

LONDON — Lithuania’s veterans helped them to their first win in Olympic competition this morning as Darius Songaila and Linas Kleiza combined for 23 points in a 72-53 win over Nigeria.

Rimantas Kaukenas added 10 points and Sarunas Jasikevicius nine points and nine assists for Lithuania, which built a 19-point lead before halftime only to see Nigeria close to within seven points, 34-27, by halftime. But they resumed the basketball clinic after halftime, outplaying Nigeria on both ends of the floor throughout second half.

Al-Farouq Aminu and Ike Diogu had double-doubles for Nigeria. Aminu had 12 points and 11 rebounds; Diogu finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds. But Nigeria made just one of their 16 attempts from beyond the 3-point line and shot just 24 percent (16-for-66) for overall.

Nigeria plays the U.S. Thursday.

Brazil, Spain, Russia, Argentina And Nigeria Impress In Olympic Openers

LONDON — The U.S. Men’s Senior National Team wasn’t the only crew to walk away from the first day of Olympic competition with an impressive win, theirs coming in a 98-71 thumping of France in the third game of the day.

There were familiar faces (to NBA fans) on the court all day and night, as Brazil, Spain,Russia, Argentina and Nigeria all made good first impressions at the Olympic Basketball Stadium.

A quick round-up of the action …


The Aminu brothers, Alade and Al-Farouq combined for 25 points and 18 rebounds as Nigeria, the last team to qualify for this 12-team field, held off a late rally from the African champions in the first game of the day. Ike Diogu added 13 points and 10 rebounds. Amine Rzig scored 15 of his 18 points in the second-half to lead Tunisia in what was the Olympic debut for both teams.


Leandro Barbosa scored 16 points but it was his backcourt mate, Brazilian captain Marcelo Huertas, who played the hero as they held off a late push from Australia on two free throws from Huertas with five seconds to play. David Andersen scored all 14 of his points after halftime and Patty Mills led Australia with a game-high 20 points, but it wasn’t enough.


Pau Gasol was dominant, scoring 21 points and grabbing 11 rebounds and Serge Ibaka added 17 points, as the silver medalists and two-time European champs whipped China. Yi Jianlian was impressive in defeat, scoring a game-high 30 points for China, which had no answer for Spain’s depth and quality backcourt duo of Juan Carlos Navarro (14 points) and Jose Calderon (12).


The gracious hosts were no match for the Minnesota Timberwolves-bound duo of Andrei Kirilenko (35 points) and Alexey Shved (16 points and 13 assists, who sparked Russia’s dominating performance. Luol Deng scored the first basket of the game, the first for the British in the Olympics since 1948, and finished with 26 points. But he and Pops Mensah-Bonsu (22) couldn’t help the home team overcome Russia or an ugly 4-for-26 effort from beyond the 3-point line.


Luis Scola scored 32 points, Manu Ginobili finished with 21, 10 rebounds and six assists and Carlos Delfino added 20 points for the 2004 gold medalists, who struggled in their exhibition run-up to this competition but celebrated Ginobili’s 35th birthday in style. Linas Kleiza scored 20 points to lead Lithuania, which defeated Argentina in the opener for both teams four years ago in Beijing.


For a look at Tuesday’s schedule, click here!

Diogu Leads Nigeria To London, final spot

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Men’s Basketball Olympic field is set. Nigeria earned the 12th and final spot in London with a huge 88-73 victory over the Dominican Republic in the third place game of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Caracas, Venezuela on Sunday.

Ike Diogu, the former Warrior/Pacer/Blazer/King/Clipper/Spur, was the star for Nigeria, who qualified for the Olympics for the first time ever. Diogu scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and hit 10 of 14 shots.

Nigeria led 47-39 at the half, but the game was tied with less than six minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Diogu came up huge down the stretch though, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers as Nigeria scored 29 points in the final period to win going away. The Hornets’ Al-Farouq Aminu played the Scottie Pippen role, finishing with 14 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and five blocks.

The Kings’ Francisco Garcia led the Dominican with 17 points. Al Horford dealt with foul trouble and had just 12 points in 29 minutes.

The London games begin July 29. Here is the 12-team field…

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
China 2011 FIBA Asia Champion
Lithuania 2012 Qualifier
Russia 2012 Qualifier
Nigeria 2012 Qualifier

The U.S. is in Group A with Argentina, France, Lithuania, Russia and Tunisia. They’ll play their first exhibition game against the Dominican Republic on Thursday in Las Vegas. You can watch that one (taped) at 12 a.m. ET on NBA TV.

Russia, Lithuania Heading To London

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — As the United States named its 12-man roster for London 2012 on Saturday, two teams earned trips to London with victories in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Caracas, Venezuela.

Russia and Lithuania, two of the favorites in the 12-team qualifying tourney, are teams Nos. 10 and 11 in the Olympic field.

In the first of Saturday’s games, point guard Alexey Shved (who looks to be NBA-bound this fall) led Russia to an 85-77 win over Nigeria, scoring 22 points and dishing out six assists. The game was tied at 26 early in the second quarter, but Russia outscored Nigeria 20-5 to close the period and led by as many as 21 in the second half.

Andrei Kirilenko added 19 points, eight rebounds and four steals for Russia, while Ike Diogu (who played two games for the Spurs last season) led Nigeria with 16 points and 14 boards. The Hornets’ Al-Farouq Aminu scored 13 points, but had seven turnovers.

Russia shot a scorching 14-for-27 from 3-point range. They were arguably the U.S. Team’s toughest competition in the medal rounds in the 2010 World Championship, losing 89-79 in the quarterfinals.

The team the U.S. beat in the ’10 semifinals was the second team to qualify for the Olympics on Saturday. Lithuania, who had a disappointing finish in last year’s Eurobasket (which they hosted), redeemed themselves with a 109-83 blowout of the Dominican Republic.