Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Men’s Senior National Team’

USA Basketball’s Changing Faces




VIDEO: Kevin Durant is the present and future face of USA Basketball

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Roster turnover has been the hallmark of USA Basketball’s program under the leadership of managing director Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski. From one group of stars to the next, the brain trust of the organization has found ways to integrate the next generation of stars into the perfect mix with the already existing core group of stars that helped revitalize the program into the world’s most dominant group.

And this latest incarnation, the 28-man 2014-16 Men’s National Team roster announced this morning, includes a whopping 12 Olympic  gold medalists and a perfect blend of next generation stars (Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, Paul GeorgeDeMarcus Cousins, etc.), current NBA superstars with extensive USA Basketball experience (Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Stephen Curry and LaMarcus Aldridge, etc.) and program stalwarts (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard).

As my colleague John Schuhmann points out, continuity is the greatest strength for USA Basketball now. The blend of 14 veterans and 14 newcomers on the National Team roster reflects that continuing effort from Colangelo and Coach K to build a program capable of functioning for years to come, as the names and faces of the stars in the player pool change.

Veterans Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are no longer a part of the player pool but that opens the door for up and coming stars like Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard and Andre Drummond to see if and where they fit.

“This roster is the strongest roster we’ve ever had,” Colangelo said during a Thursday morning teleconference.

It should be when you consider all of the talent they had to choose from. A 12-man roster for this summer’s World Cup, which starts in late August in Spain, and the 2016 Olympics in Rio will need come from this 28-man group, though Colangelo and Coach K were quick to mention that the mix remains fluid and that things could change.

“The pool is fluid,” Krzyzewski said. “Nothing is concrete. Life is fluid and especially life in the NBA.”

Veteran stars Durant, Love and James Harden have already committed to playing in Spain. Indiana’s George and London gold medalist Davis is also believed to be one of the frontrunner’s for one of those 12-spots on the World Cup roster.

But there are no guarantees.

“We don’t talk about locks because its unfair to all of the great players we have on our roster,” Colangelo said when asked specifically about George, who is expected to be announced later today as an Eastern Conference All-Star starter. “But suffice it to say we fell in love with [George] when we brought him into one of our camps and few years back. He’s become one of the outstanding young players in the NBA. His versatility makes him a very valuable asset on any team. If you’re talking odds, he’s probably a good bet. But again no one has a lock. All of our people know they have to earn it.”

The most interesting part of the selection process will involve the big men, where the numbers have filled out considerably since the last time the National Team was headed to a competition.

“We’re excited about the post because we have more guys than we’ve had before,” Krzyzewski said. “Aldridge, Cousins … for Dwight Howard to be back with the group, he was such an integral part of the Beijing Olympics. And one of the merging stars in the NBA in Anthony Davis. It’s more big guys than we’ve had before. In London, at the end of the gold medal game, my four and five were Carmelo and LeBron James, and that’s not bad. But hopefully, all of these guys are healthy and don’t have any contract or health issues … that would be utopia.”

As the rest of the international competition will attest, having a fluid 28-player pool like the one Colangelo and Coach K will choose from certainly qualifies as a basketball utopia. Changing faces while maintaining continuity in the program at the same time.



VIDEO: Anthony Davis is one of the new faces of USA Basketball

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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U.S-Argentina Game Blog!

LONDON – That gold medal rematch of the 1972 Olympic final that folks have been buzzing about around here for two weeks is not going to happen.

There still could be a rematch Sunday. It just won’t include Russia. David Blatt‘s team held a 13-point lead over Spain but couldn’t hold off Pau Gasol, Jose Calderon, Rudy Fernandez, Marc Gasol and the rest of a seasoned Spanish team that rallied for a 67-59 win in the first semifinal of the day.

The U.S. Men’s Senior National Team squares off with Argentina in the second semifinal (4 p.m. ET, NBC). If the U.S. wins we’ll get that rematch, but of the 2008 gold medal game in Beijing, won by the U.S.

Pau Gasol led Spain with 16 points and 12 rebounds in the win over Russia, capping a crazy day in which he found out the Dwight Howard trade was finalized during warm ups from TNT’s Craig Sager.

“Craig Sager came to me before the game, chasing me, telling me it was official, and telling me he wanted to get some thoughts while I’m stretching before the Olympic semifinal,” a smiling Gasol said from the podium afterwards. “I told him, ‘look, I’m trying to be focused here.’ And he said, ‘I wouldn’t do this to you if it wasn’t official,’ so I had to give him a little something to he would go away and I could stretch.”

Gasol and his Spanish teammates can stretch out tonight and watch the U.S. Argentina to see who they’ll have to fight with for that gold medal Sunday.

We’ll be here, too, chronicling the action play-by-nearly-every-play. Get your predictions in now …

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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.”

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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. “

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U.S.-Australia Game Blog!

LONDON – In the interest of fair play and a drama-free evening here at North Greenwich Arena, we’re going to have both the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team and Australia sign a petition to stick to basketball and leave the rabbit punching to others.

After yet another sucker-punching incident at the end of the Spain-France game involving Nicolas Batum’s right hand and Juan Carlos Navarro‘s groin area, we’ve officially seen enough of the below the belt antics. Play ball folks.  Chris Paul and Facundo Campazzo kicked things off Monday night.

But there is Olympic gold (silver and bronze, too) on the line gentlemen. It’s time to cut out the flopping, the foolishness and the fisticuffs and just play ball. Kevin Durant and Patty Mills, two of the hottest scorers in the field, would appreciate it kindly.

We can do without the silly stuff. The winner of this U.S.-Australia game has a date with Argentina waiting on them.

We’re following every bounce of tonight’s final quarterfinal game (with our nearly every) play-by-play. Game tips off in 25 minutes. So get your predictions in now if you want them on the record …

– FOURTH QUARTER –

0.0: 119-86. See you Friday night. Maybe there will be a bit more suspense then … maybe not!

1:26: James Harden batting clean up tight, with seven points in the last 70 seconds. 117-84.

2:07: The U.S. is still firing, Andre Iguodala for 3. 112-84.

3:52: Okay, fun is over. Kobe finally misses one. But the damage has been done. He was scoreless at halftime and goes to the bench with 20. LeBron has a triple-double (what USA Basketball officials believe to be the first in Olympic history) and the U.S. is headed for a rematch with Argentina in the semifinals. The Boomers are going home. 107-80.

4:13: LeBron with the behind-the-back pass to Love for a dunk and the runaway. 107-80.

4:33: And again, for good measure. 105-80.

4:53: On the pull-up 3 now  just to show off. 102-90.

5:10: Kobe for 3. 99-80.

5:48: LeBron finds Kobe on the right wing for a deep 3 and a 96-78 lead.

6:16: K. Love with a little big boy basketball under the rim. Gets a rebound, fouled and goes to the line for two. But not before getting a standing ovation from the bench for his hard work. 93-78.

7:49: LeBron in one corner turns and flings a one-handed dart to D. Will in the opposite corner and he swishes a 3. 90-75 just like that. LeBron erases so many of the U.S. deficiencies on both ends of the floor it’s not even funny.

8:32: David Barlow for 3 after an Andersen layup over Durant. 87-75.

9:16: CP3 with the step back 3. 87-70.

– THIRD QUARTER –

0.0: Wasn’t a particularly sharp 10 minutes for the U.S. But when you can lean on LeBron, Durant and even that Kobe fella, it’s tough to give up too much. 84-70.

22.1: ‘Melo converts the layup but misses the free throw off of a steal and break. 84-70.

1:02: One member of the U.S. press contingent (he shall remain nameless) insists that this team is primed for an upset but admits that he’s not sure there is a team left in this competition capable of pulling it off. Australia has the heart but not the horses. Doesn’t trust Spain or Argentina. “Russia might be the only team that can do it. And they have to get there first.”

1:11: Baynes comes back with an oop of his own. 80-68.

1:23: Durant on the drive and dunk. 80-66.

1:44: We’re back to LeBron just having his way with these poor bigs assigned to try to guard him. It’s not a fair fight when the U.S. spreads the floor and he attacks like this. Too easy. (lane violation on his second free throw) 78-66.

2:19: ‘Melo scores from 3-land on a tipped LeBron pass to the corner. 77-66.

2:48: Unsportsmanlike foul on Westbrook and he didn’t even swing on anybody below the belt. 77-66.

3:07: Matt Dellavedova with a layup off of the feed from Mills. 74-64.

3;30: Mills comes right back with a driving layup. 74-62.

3:38: ‘Melo at the line, the U.S. has calmed things back down a bit now. 74-60.

4:12: LeBron rebounds the Kobe miss from 3 finishes with the baseline layup. But misses the free throw after being fouled. 72-58.

4:37: Steal and another corner 3 from Kobe, 70-58.

4:53: Kobe for 3. 67-58.

5:30: LeBron sinks the first of two free throws, 64-58. But the U.S. needs the second unit to crank things up in here. They need a spark.

5:59: Andersen scores over Durant (3 fouls) in the post. 63-58. The U.S. yawned at the start of this quarter and now they are in a fight. 63-58.

6:39: Kobe sinks two free throws for a 63-56 lead.

7:27: Bryant shuts me up with a nice dime to Chandler for the dunk. 61-53.

7:42: Kobe steps on the line after he and Chandler go after a rebound and he snags it. This isn’t one of his finer performances. He was scoreless in the first half (0-for-4 with two turnovers and struggled to stay in front of anyone). He knows he’s struggling right now. He’ll crank it up, you watch.

8:01: Durant corner 3 to calm things down. 59-53.

8:23: Ingles with another 3. An 11-0 Boomers run and now we get what we were expecting. 56-53 just like tat.

9:11: Ingles sinks the 3. 56-50. We’ve got a game folks.

9:41: Mills with the steal and layup. 56-47 after five quick points from the Boomers’ best player.

A little Kiss Cam (and Prince on the loud speakers) for the second half warm up music. The U.S. is shooting 7-for-21 from deep right now, giving them 83 made 3-pointers and counting in this competition.

– HALFTIME –

The Red Foxes (Ukrainian dace team) didn’t make the move from the Big White Marshmallow to this new venue. There are some very disappointed members of the crowd who had grown fond of our usual halftime entertainment. I’m partial to the Heat Dancers myself. Someone send me a picture …

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