My All-USA Five and other notables from the men's tournament
BEIJING -- With 17 days' worth of basketball in the books, it's time to take stock of the Olympic tournament beyond the headline story of these Games: the emphatic reassertion of U.S. men's basketball supremacy. Before we do, a quick word on the prospects of the continuation of that supremacy.
He's too gassed right now from presiding over America's three-year run to gold to do anything other than glory in the moment, but U.S. Men's National Team managing director Jerry Colangelo did tip his hand to me last week.
"I'm still not ready for the rocking chair, or for the 'r' word," he said. "And I've been preaching about continuity, about keeping things together. So, I'd like to stay if there's interest."
There's sure to be plenty of interest. My guess is Colangelo's only caveat would be that the resources put at his disposal this past triennium would have to remain in place. Given what his experiment has done for U.S. basketball, that would be a case of resources well-allocated.
Meantime, here's an All-USA Five, courtesy your faithful correspondent:
F -- Dwyane Wade
F -- LeBron James
C -- Chris Bosh
G -- Kobe Bryant
G -- Jason Kidd
Wade is the Comeback Kid of the 2008 Games. In July, Colangelo made a special trip to Chicago to examine him, not so much to see if Wade's body or heart were in order, but if his head was on straight. Boy, was it ever. If his good health holds, Wade will return to form as a great NBA player.
James evolved into more of a leader with every game. Word from inside the team is that no one was more insightful at film sessions. And other than Dwight Howard, no one was more adept at keeping the troops loose.
Bosh showed a defensive hunger and all-court presence that had Toronto Raptors assistant coach Jay Triano, who was working the Games for CBC Television, wondering where that side of Bosh had been and delighting in its unveiling.
I can easily persuade myself that both Chris Paul and Deron Williams played better at the point, but Kidd gets the nod for the intangibles of his leadership. Coach Mike Krzyzewski marched up to Kidd in the locker room right after the team's victory over Argentina in the semifinals and thanked him for his steadying hand after the Argies had pulled to within 46-40.
As for Bryant, after a tentative start that included 1-for-17 shooting from the chippie FIBA three-point distance, he hit his groove midway through pool play and sustained it right through the gold medal game, where he closed out Spain. No one reveled more in being at the Games and partaking of their spirit. If the new Kobe can pass customs Stateside, the Lakers and the NBA will have a much more marketable asset this season than they did last.
The All-Rest-of-the-World Team
If we set aside members of the Redeem Team, who most stood out over the Olympic fortnight? I got my head together with two guys who caught virtually every game -- FIBA.com's Jeff Taylor and Gregg "Moose Nephew" Found of the Olympic News Service -- and came up with the following:
G -- Sarunas Jasekevicius, Lithuania. An ordinary player at Maryland and in the NBA, he's a Eurostar as much fun to watch for his expressiveness as what he does on the floor.
G -- Manu Ginobili, Argentina. The Best Sixth Man in the NBA willed his team past Greece and into the semifinals only to reinjure that pesky ankle against the U.S.
C -- Pau Gasol, Spain. The leader of the great nucleus of Los Rojos that won the '93 Junior Worlds, Gasol ratcheted up the toughness when Spain needed it.
F -- Luis Scola, Argentina. The consensus pick for non-American tournament MVP, he had a monstrous game against the U.S. Is it any wonder that the Rockets started to play better when Scola got more PT?
F -- Rudy Fernandez, Spain. I love the way this guy comes off screens and gets his shots. After he nearly beat the U.S. in the gold-medal game with some sick three-point shooting and an epic dribble drive past Howard for a slam, U.S. assistant coach Nate McMillan fixed Fernandez with a huge hug. McMillan is grateful that Fernandez will be a Trail Blazer next season with Team USA no longer in his sights.
Zoran Planinic, Croatia
Carlos Delfino, Argentina
Felipe Reyes, Spain
Victor Khryapa, Russia
Andres Nocioni, Argentina
J.R. Holden, Russia
Patrick Mills, Australia
Yao Ming, China
Ramunas Siskauskas, Lithuania
Dirk Nowitzki, Germany
Patrick Mills, Australia
Brad Newley, Australia
Ricky Rubio, Spain
Hamed Ehadadi, Iran
Marc Gasol, Spain
Theo Papaloukas, Greece
Yi Jianlin, China
Chris Kaman, Germany
Andrew Bogut, Australia
Andrei Kirilenko, Russia
Most Quotable Character
Have to dip into the women's draw for this one. China coach Tom Maher, the Aussie who used to coach his own national women's team and had a run in the WNBA, likened his Chinese women to "recovering drug addicts" for their tendency to lapse into old, bad habits, and described China's defense as resembling "vomity juice."