Posts Tagged ‘Renaldo Balkman’

FIBA Update: Puerto Rico Is Going To Spain

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – FIBA qualifying is still as wide open as ever, especially in Caracas, where the final day of pool play will determine the Americas’ three automatic berths for next summer’s World Cup of Basketball.

All we know right now is that Puerto Rico is going to Spain next summer. They clinched a spot in the FIBA Americas semifinals and one of the four bids with a thrilling victory over Venezuela on Saturday night.

Venezuela led by 22 points in the second quarter and was up 11 with four minutes left in the fourth, but J.J. Barea and Renaldo Balkman led Puerto Rico all the way back. Venezuela had chances to win at the end of regulation and overtime, but Donta Smith came up empty both times.

Barea led all scorers with 30 points, hitting seven of his 11 3-point attempts, two of them desperation heaves late in the shot clock in the final minutes of the fourth and overtime. Balkman, meanwhile, finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds, five steals and three blocks. The competition isn’t the best and he has his issues, but he has looked great in these games.

Venezuela, playing without Greivis Vasquez and Greg Echenique, still has a shot at the top four, but must beat on Sunday night and get some help in one of the earlier games.

The Dominican Republic came up with two huge wins over the last two nights to put themselves in great position for one of the top four spots. They handed Puerto Rico their only loss on Friday and then beat Canada on Saturday, coming back from early deficits in each game.

So if the D.R. can beat 2-5 Uruguay on Sunday, they will qualify for a major international competition (Olympics or World Championship) for the first time since 1978. They’re playing without Al Horford, but have been led by James Feldeine, a New York native who plays in the Spanish League, and the Rockets’ Francisco Garcia.

Mexico is the other team with its destiny in its own hands. And with Puerto Rico having already clinched a top-four spot, Mexico has a better shot of knocking off P.R. and clinching their own berth in the W.C.O.B. on Sunday.

The big game on Sunday will be between Canada and Argentina (2 p.m. ET). The loser of that game will finish fifth or sixth and fail to qualify for the World Cup. The winner, however, isn’t necessarily in either, because they could be tied for fourth with Venezuela.

In a two-way tie, head-to-head is the first tiebreaker.

If Canada, Mexico and Venezuela all win Sunday, Mexico would finish third (with 12 points), Venezuela would finish fourth (because they beat Canada), and Canada would finish fifth.

If Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela all win Sunday, Mexico would finish third (with 12 points), Argentina would finish fourth (because they beat Venezuela), and Venezuela would finish fifth.

If Canada and Venezuela win, but Mexico loses, all three teams would have 11 points. In that case, Canada would likely finish third (with a +41 point differential going into Sunday), and fourth place could come down to Venezuela’s margin of victory over Jamaica.

If Argentina and Venezuela win, but Mexico loses, all three teams would have 11 points. In that case, Argentina would finish third (2-0) against the other two, Mexico would finish fourth (1-1), and Venezuela would finish fifth (0-2).

That’s not all the possibilities, because the Dominican Republic (if they don’t beat Uruguay) could finish with 11 points too. But you get the picture.

FIBA Americas standings

Team W L PTS Diff. Sunday opponent
Puerto Rico 5 1 11 +46 Mexico
Dominican Rep. 4 2 10 +30 Uruguay
Mexico 4 2 10 +16 Puerto Rico
Canada 3 3 9 +41 Argentina
Argentina 3 3 9 +13 Canada
Venezuela 3 3 9 0 Jamaica
Jamaica 1 5 7 -52 Venezuela
Uruguay 1 5 7 -94 Dominican Rep.

So there are five teams playing for three spots on Sunday. Here’s the schedule, with all the games on ESPN 3.

Sorting out Eurobasket

Eurobasket is 3/5 of the way through the first round, which will wrap up on Monday. The top three teams in each group will advance to the second round.

In Group A, Mike Fratello’s Ukraine squad remains unbeaten, but will play Tony Parker and France on Sunday. In Group B, Lithuania got a big win over Latvia on Friday. Slovenia remains in control of Group C, while Greece and Italy will play for the top spot in Group D on Friday.

Eurobasket top offenses (points scored per 100 possessions) through three games:
1. Greece – 119.2
2. Georgia – 113.9
3. France – 112.9

Eurobasket top defenses (points allowed per 100 possessions) through three games:
1. Spain – 75.6
2. Finland – 83.4
3. Czech Republic – 87.0

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 Puerto Rico FIBA Americas top four
12 FIBA Americas top four
13 FIBA Americas top four
14 FIBA Americas top four
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.

FIBA Update: Spain Upset, Puerto Rico Stays Unbeaten

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Thursday was a big day in FIBA qualifications, with the second round of FIBA Americas getting started and Day 2 at Eurobasket seeing a thrilling upset.

Down goes Spain

The story of the day was Slovenia coming back from 10 points down to beat Eurobasket favorite Spain. The Suns’ Goran Dragic led the way for the tournament’s hosts, registering 18 points, six rebounds, seven assists and two steals.

The game was more important for Slovenia, who now looks like a strong candidate to earn one of Europe’s six automatic berths to next year’s World Cup, than Spain. The two-time defending Euro champs have finished first (2011 Eurobasket, 2009 Eurobasket, 2006 World Championship) or second (2012 Olympics, 2008 Olympics, 2007 Eurobasket) in six of their last seven international competitions (the exception being the 2010 World Championship), despite losing preliminary-round games in almost all of them.

But there wasn’t any clear gamesmanship on Spain’s part. Marc Gasol played all but three minutes on Thursday.

Down to the wire

Slovenia-Spain was a great game, and it wasn’t the only thriller on Thursday. Latvia edged Montenegro on a jumper by Kristaps Janicenoks in the final seconds, Croatia beat Georgia on a Ante Tomic, pick-and-roll layup, and Belgium outlasted Germany in overtime.

The ends of these FIBA games can be really fun, because there are fewer timeouts in the final possessions. You’re not allowed to call a timeout on a live ball.

What happened to Turkey?

As someone who witnessed Turkey’s magical run to the 2010 World Championship gold medal game first-hand, it’s disappointing to see how much they’ve fallen off. They’ve been a mess offensively without long-time point guard Kerem Tunceri (whose absence on the roster was the coach’s decision, according to my Turkish friends on twitter) and with Hedo Turkoglu and Ersan Ilyasova combining to shoot 11-for-38 (29 percent).

More disappointing is the Turkish defense, which was dominant in 2010 and has allowed about 108 points per 100 possessions in their two games this week. With their size, they can extend their 2-3 zone out beyond the 3-point line, but they didn’t really go to it until the third quarter on Thursday. And when they did, Italy just picked it apart.

The good news for Turkey is that Hedo’s tan looks fabulous.

Greece back on top

The bad news for Turkey is that, after a day off, they next face Greece, who has the tournament’s best point differential after two games. Greece had a couple of down years (they didn’t qualify for last year’s Olympics), but has looked strong in wins over Sweden and Russia.

Greece is one of seven unbeaten teams. The most surprising of the seven has to be Finland, who has been led by former first-round pick Petteri Koponen. Also unbeaten is the Ukraine, coached by TNT’s Mike Fratello.

Big wins for Canada, Puerto Rico

While Spain can brush off Thursday’s loss, every game at the FIBA Americas tournament is critical right now, because the top four teams after this round of games will earn the automatic bids to next year’s World Cup of Basketball.

So Canada’s 89-67 win over Mexico, putting them in second place with three games to play, was huge. The Spurs’ Cory Joseph, now averaging 16.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists, has been one of the best players in the tournament.

Also big was Puerto Rico’s win over Argentina. Puerto Rico trailed by 16 midway through the second quarter, but came back and took control with a 13-0 run late in the third. They haven’t clinched a top-four spot just yet, but as the only undefeated team in the tournament, they’re in great shape.

Former Knick and Nugget Renaldo Balkman has been huge for P.R., averaging 20.6 points and 8.4 boards through five games.

Action in FIBA Americas and Eurobasket continues Friday.

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.

Buckle Up For Free Agent-Palooza

– For labor updates, follow: @daldridgetnt | @AschNBA

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We apologize in advance for the conflicting reports you’re going to hear in the days and weeks ahead about basically any and every NBA player, free agent or not, being pursued by this team or that team.

Hey, it’s that time of year, just a few months later than normal.

The avalanche of rumors kicked off in earnest Tuesday afternoon, before the news broke that NBA facilities would be reopening for players Thursday and that team officials and agents could begin their free agent dance this morning, though no deals could be agreed to until Dec. 9.

If it seems like a shock to the system, it should. The lockout lasted 149 days, depriving us of the ritual of our usual free agent-palooza we swim in every summer, among other things. The fact is, we haven’t been immersed in this sort of rumor crush since the lockout began July 1. And now that the union is being reformed and both sides are on the road to polishing the details of the new collective bargaining agreement, it’s time to get your game face on and get back into the regular flow of things.

Of course, with a condensed free agency period/training camp all rolled into one, things are going to be a little wilder and crazier than usual. So again, be prepared to hear any and everything and just remember that until at least Dec. 9, it’s all talk …

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PACERS CHASING RONDO?

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports As Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge aggressively pursues possible deals for Rajon Rondo, the Indiana Pacers have emerged as an intriguing suitor for the point guard, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. For the past few days, Pacers officials – and third-party surrogates – have been making calls and gathering information and insight into Rondo’s reputation as a teammate and leader, sources said. The Pacers and Celtics have discussed the preliminary framework of a deal, but two sources said Indiana would need a third team to provide Boston with the talent it wants to do a deal. The Celtics are likely trying to gather the necessary pieces to make a bid for Ainge’s ultimate target: New Orleans point guard Chris Paul, sources said. It was unclear if the Pacers had begun to reach out to broaden discussions, but there was an expectation they would do so. The Celtics have been gauging Rondo’s trade value for more than a year, and have held discussions with teams about him across the past few trade deadlines and NBA drafts. There have long been divides within Boston’s front office, coaching staff and locker room about Rondo. He can be moody, difficult and stubborn, and several league sources were dubious if the Pacers’ young coach, Frank Vogel, would have the stature to deal with Rondo.

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NETS READYING OFFER FOR DWIGHT HOWARD

Marc Stein and Chad Ford of ESPN.com: The New Jersey Nets are prepared to offer a trade package featuring Brook Lopez and two future first-round picks to acquire Dwight Howard before the Orlando Magic center becomes a free agent in July 2012, according to sources close to the situation. Sources told ESPN.com this week that, to sweeten the proposal, New Jersey would likewise offer to take back the contract of Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu, who has three seasons left on his contract worth just under $35 million. Absorbing Turkoglu’s remaining salary would become financially feasible for the Nets after the expected release of swingman Travis Outlaw through the amnesty clause that will be included in the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement and by including another smaller contract or two in the deal. No trade deadline for the 2011-12 season has been set in stone yet by the league office, but many team executives believe it will fall in March. Once the league officially re-opens for business, Howard’s future in Orlando is sure to be one of the season’s dominant story lines, along with Chris Paul’s future in New Orleans and the Nets’ attempts to secure a long-term commitment from star guard Deron Williams. It’s been an open secret around the league that the Nets’ dream scenario is pairing Howard with Williams, after they followed up their failed pursuit of Carmelo Anthony last season by trading for Williams just before the February trade deadline. It remains to be seen whether Howard will regard the Nets as a prime destination on par with the New York Knicks, even after they move out of New Jersey, but sources say that Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov has long believed that teaming them up would convince both Team USA stars to commit their long-term future to the Brooklyn-bound Nets.

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Faves Roll At Americas’ Second Round

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS (NEW JERSEY BUREAU) – The second round of the FIBA Americas Championship 2011 in Mar del Plata, Argentina got underway on Monday, but it was marred by a gruesome injury to Dominican Republic point guard Edgar Sosa.

The four matchups were all pretty straightforward, with the favorites to make the semifinals all cruising to comfortable victories. Tuesday’s games should be similar, and we’ll have to wait until Wednesday before we see the heavyweight squads on the floor together.

Trending up: Dominican Republic (4-1)
Trending down: Canada (2-3)

Dominican Republic 92, Panama 68 (Boxscore)

The good news for the Dominican Republic is that they took care of business against a weak opponent (they led by 26 at the end of the third quarter) and that Charlie Villanueva (13 points, five rebounds, 5-for-13 from the field) looked better than he did in the first round.

The horrible news is that Sosa suffered a career-altering injury in the final minute of the game. On a drive to the basket, Sosa took some contact and fell hard to the floor. When he looked down at his right leg, he saw that it was bent in the middle of his shin.

It was an awful sight for anyone watching and the players on both teams were visibly shaken. After Sosa was taken off the floor in a stretcher, Panama respectfully dribbled out the clock and both teams gathered at center court in prayer.

Going forward, the absence of Sosa puts a lot of pressure on back-up point guard Ronald Ramon, who hasn’t made much of an impact through the first five games.

Puerto Rico 94, Venezuela 82 (Boxscore)

This was the matchup with the most potential for a close game and Venezuela was down by just two midway through the third quarter. But then they got hit with a 17-0 Puerto Rico run that decided the game.

Carlos Arroyo had another solid game, but J.J. Barea had another underwhelming performance. And it was Daniel Santiago that made the difference for Puerto Rico. Venezuela’s bigs couldn’t match up with Santiago’s size and the FIBA veteran led all scorers with 22 points on 8-of-9 shooting. He even beat Venezuela down the floor in transition a couple of times.

Santiago’s dominance inside freed up Alex Galindo on the perimeter. Galindo hit three of his five attempts from 3-point range and finished with 18 points.

For Venezuela, Greivis Vasquez had a rough day, shooting just 1-for-7 from the field. And after his huge 28-point game against Canada, Hector Romero came back down to earth. Romero failed to score on Monday, missing all seven of his shots.

Unfortunately, like the previous game, this one was marred by an incident in the closing minutes. With 5:37 left in the fourth quarter, Vasquez fouled Renaldo Balkman hard in the post and Balkman retaliated by head-butting Vasquez in the cheek. Then Nestor Colmenares shoved Balkman to the floor. Both Balkman and Colmenares were ejected.

Argentina 79, Canada 53 (Boxscore)

Like most of Argentina’s games, this one was over early. Canada got to within nine late in the third quarter, but there was never any doubt that Argentina would remain unbeaten.

Argentina’s offense is a thing of beauty and Canada’s offense is pretty much the opposite. Canada shot just 28 percent from the field and had 18 more turnovers (22) than assists (four). Kelly Olynyk (19 points and 12 rebounds) was their lone bright spot.

Luis Scola led all scorers with 22 points on 7-for-15 shooting, while Manu Ginobili had 16 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals.

Argentina should get a tougher test on Tuesday against Venezuela. Canada, meanwhile, probably needs to upset Puerto Rico in the early game to have a shot at finishing in the top five and qualifying for next year’s Olympic qualifier.

Brazil 93, Uruguay 66 (Boxscore)

Brazil put this one away with a 28-12 third quarter. The potency of their offense was on full display as they connected on 58 percent of their shots, including 10 of their 18 attempts from 3-point range. Tiago Splitter got plenty of rest, scoring nine points and eight rebounds in just 21 minutes.

Rondo’s Ridiculous Roll

Posted by Sekou Smith

SALT LAKE CITY – Just because we packed up all our goods from the hideout and headed to see the Western Conference semifinals doesn’t mean we’re ignoring what’s going on in the East.

And how could anyone miss what Rajon Rondo did to the Cleveland Cavaliers Sunday afternoon in Boston?

Rondo’s 29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists was a singularly amazing performance in itself (in case you haven’t heard, Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain are the only other players that have put up numbers like that in a playoff game), but it brought up and interesting topic for a small group of us that huddled up for a later dinner after the game.

And no, we didn’t dive back into the who’s-the-best-point-guard-in-the-league discussion, because we could pick a different one for each round of these playoffs and still be right.

Instead, we were trying to come up with a logical explanation for 20 teams passing on him in the 2006 draft. Of course, we could not come up with anything.

I remember watching Rondo go through a workout in Atlanta and everyone raving about his athleticism, defensive skills and just about everything about him, save for the often-used and totally ridiculous claim that “well, he can’t make a shot.”

Rondo still isn’t a great shooter and perhaps he never will be, but he does everything else well on both ends of the floor.

He’s easily the best defensive point guard in the league. And on a team that feeds off of its prowess and effort on the defensive end, Rondo’s contributions are crucial, as my main man and NBA.com colleague John Schuhmann pointed out:

For the most part, the Celtics’ break was fueled by their defense. Their intensity on that end returned after a one-game hiatus, again keeping James out of the paint. And with the game on the line early in the fourth quarter, that vaunted Celtics defense was the deciding factor.

They held the Cavs scoreless on the first nine possessions of the fourth, turning a two-point lead into a 12-point cushion. They forced four Cleveland turnovers in that stretch, three long jumpers, and a pair of rushed drives.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers gave Rondo extra credit for keeping the Cavs uncomfortable offensively.

“The stat that doesn’t show … was his ball pressure,” Rivers said. “I thought that was the biggest difference, because they didn’t get into their stuff as quickly as they did in Game 3.

“To me, that might have been the hardest thing he had to do tonight. And we were concerned about that robbing him of his energy. And then to go out and do the rebounding and the passing and the scoring, it was just an amazing effort.”

Amazing indeed!

I just wonder if anyone will ever say similar things about Adam Morrison, Shelden Williams, Patrick O’Bryant, Mouhamed Sene, Cedric Simmons, Shawne Williams, Oleksiy Pecherov, Quincy Douby or Renaldo Balkman — who were all drafted ahead of Rondo?

I’m going to take a stab here and guess no.

And I guarantee you LeBron James won’t be concerned with trying to guard any of those guys anytime soon.

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