Posted: Saturday September 2, 2006 5:06PM; Updated: Saturday September 2, 2006 9:42PM
Some other thoughts from the game:
Free throws remained a problem. The U.S. shot 15-for-30 from the line, with Anthony the worst offender at 1-for-6.
It seems the young guys are getting the hang of the international game. On the final Argentine shot of the night, Carlos Delfino put up a running layup that hung on the rim. Wade leapt up and batted it off, which is of course legal in the international game. Still, to the best of my memory it was the first time a U.S. player had done so in the round of eight. Another indicator: Dwight Howard has done a good job of using all dimensions of the trapezoidal lane on free throws, dropping down and around opponents. This led to a number of offensive boards against Greece.
After much clamor in 2004 about the need for a big man who can shoot, the U.S. finally put one on the roster and ... he barely played. The idea of Brad Miller, it seemed, was better than the reality. He played in only four games, mostly in garbage time. To be fair, it was partly a matter of mismatched parts. In Coach K's pressure defense, Miller is a bad fit. Had the U.S. decided to run more of a motion offense, or needed to draw opposing bigs away from the basket, Miller might have come in handy.
As far as I can tell, everyone has a roster move that could save the U.S. One friend of mine emailed me with his "ideal" U.S. team, which he'd settled on after quite a bit of thought. How creative was his thinking? He had Jordan Farmar on the roster. My take, after watching the games in Japan, is that while a refreshed roster might help the team (especially if a shooter and a lockdown defender or two make the cut), the most important thing for the U.S. squad is to continue to play together. That's what separates Greece and Spain and Argentina from the U.S.: execution, not talent. So yeah, the team would benefit from Chauncey Billups and Kobe, but even more so it will benefit from a continuity of the roster, and practice. Lots of practice.
Before each game, all the players take little souvenir basketballs and chuck them into the stands, where fans tussle over them. There have been different delivery systems. U.S. players often try to hurl them to the U.S. fans, even if that's in the upper deck. Argentine players booted them in the manner of soccer goalies. And Howard? Well, before both the Greece game and the Argentina game, he walked over and tossed his souvenir ball all of 10 feet to ... one of the scantily-clad members of the Red Foxes, the dance team that performs during timeouts.
One of the amusing diversions of the tournament this past week has been reading the bios in the official FIBA media guide. I don't know who wrote them, but they sound like they should be movie trailers ("In a world without law, only one man could keep the basketball peace: Manu...").
Andres Nocioni, for example, is described this way: "He has a Latin flamboyance which you can't understand unless you see it in action ... Not a dirty player, Nocioni fears nothing, second guesses nothing and always puts his life on the line."
Likewise, Pau Gasol receives high marks: "Gasol is an incredible low post player, where he combines his athleticism and height to awesome moves, including a battery of reverses and hooks ... Gasol is almost unstoppable."
Not everyone is praised so effusively, however. Check out the bio for Gasol's brother, Marc, who is clearly on someone's bad side at FIBA. "He has the same name, almost the same height, but seems a bit far from his hermano (brother in Spanish) talent wise. ... Some said that he put on way too much weight during his two year stay in the USA, as the extra volume of muscles (and not only muscles) did affect his game. ..."