Thursday, August 23, 2007

United States 112, Venezuela 69

Something is different... Oh, look Kobe Bryant. You'd think with a team of stars, no one player would stand out. Wrong. Kobe stood out. The most striking thing was his intensity, especially at the defensive end. He was a ball hawk from the get go, constantly pressuring opposing guards and forcing mistakes. He also hit an array of shots, including a weird loopy looking layup and a dunk of a LeBron behind the backer. And I don't know if you heard, he's slimmed down and dropped 18 pounds (this was mentioned just a few times in the broadcast). The announcers also mentioned how Bryant has been practicing a lot of catch-and-shoot jumpers to prepare for the tournament, since he's not used to shooting without creating the space himself- I'm not gonna lie, I'm not a big Bryant guy, but that is pretty cool. Bryant probably had the best overall line in the box score with 14 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals and a block.

Dwight Howard is a beast. He had his way inside and often got punished for it (as did Amare Stoudemire, they shot 7 and 9 free throws, respectively). It seemed like Team USA was actively feeding Howard in the early going and they got the Venezuelan big men in foul trouble.

LeBron... some good, some meh. The good: LeBron was 5-7 from the floor, scored 11 points and passed the ball quite well. The meh: he didn't take a shot that wasn't a layup (of the two shots missed, one was a long alley-oop from Bryant and the other was a scoop reverse layup thing) and he missed his first free throw attempt (1-2 overall, I'm glad hosting the ESPY's paid off...). James also pitched in 3 assists, 3 boards and 3 steals.

Shooters! Mike Miller and Michael Redd are both on the team this time around and they made their presence known; they shot long ball early and often (Redd was 3-5 while Miller was a Larry Hughes-esque 2-8). Redd took the ball to the hole as well and tied for the team high in points (with 'Melo) with 17.

And point guards!? Jason Kidd started for Team USA, didn't attempt a shot but finished with 3 boards, 4 assists, a steal and a block. Yup, sounds about right. The US also played Chauncey Billups (meh) and Deron Williams (yay!). Right now Williams is third on the depth chart, but I'd like to see him get more PT over Chauncey (mostly because I hate the Pistons).

Tayshaun Prince played, but I barely recognized him. He wasn't whining during every stoppage of play, it was weird to see (har!). Not that it wasn't justified (sans the scoreboard of course)- the refs sucked pretty hard. There were a lot of weird calls and no calls; clean strips were called for fouls, but body checks... notsomuch. However, I don't believe there were any traveling calls (none that I remember at least), which has plagued the Americans in the past (and by 'plagued' I mean that the refs actually call traveling violations).

Bill Walton was in rare form. I think I'm going to enjoy Bill during the Tournament of the Americas, not just due to his normal "horrendous call" and "that was the worst pass in the history of Western civilization" schtick but he studied up with the world atlas and gave us a lot of 'fun facts' on Venezuela (he compared a LeBron dunk to Angel Falls, the tallest water fall in the world and located in Venezuela). He also went rambling on about Hugo Chavez and called this sports summer "the summer of madness". Good times.

and finally...

Tonight: the Virgin Islands. This should be a cakewalk as well. Neither Venezuela nor the Virgin Islands will give the US much of a test. The game to look forward to is on Sunday, when Team USA takes on Brazil.

1 comment:

Erik said...

This brings up the eternal question: Is it better to be like Bryant or Jordan and treat every game like Game 7 of the Finals, or is it better to be like LeBron and treat an opening-round game against Venezuela like an opening-round game against Venezuela?

To tell you the truth, I'm not really all that interested in following the U.S. basket for basket through this tournament.

I'm only really interested so far as I want to see LeBron emerge with his body intact. The rest should be a gimme. If the U.S., with their talent, can't at least make the gold medal game, they don't deserve to go to the Olympics. It's that simple.

I'm far more interested in what teams like Brazil and Argentina do, because those two countries are becoming bigger pools of NBA talent by the day.