I'm going to
start this one out by going into a bit of a rant. On Monday night I was
scanning Twitter, and someone suggested -- in the wake of another dominating
summer camp performance by Vaughan, Ont.'s Andrew Wiggins
-- how good Canada's 2016 men's Olympic team could be with Wiggins, Tristan
Thompson and others.
remembered the idea being bandied around about making the Olympic basketball
tournament a FIFA-like 23-and-under affair (of course, NBA commissioner David
Stern is a champion of this, meaning the odds of it happening are good). Under
this arrangement it would mean we'd only get one possible Olympics out of
Wiggins -- and zero out of Thompson, Cory Joseph (both would be 25 in 2016) and all
the other guys who have been loyal to the national program like Joel Anthony.
all conjecture at this point, but hey, let's face it. When you're a Canada
Basketball fan, you are used to getting screwed one way or another. Let's hope
this doesn't happen -- if it does, we can only hope the NBA or FIBA includes a
handful of roster exceptions for older players.
As far as
London goes, attention as usual shifts to Team USA. When Kobe Bryant said that
this incarnation of the Dream Team could beat the original 1992 version, he
was rightfully eviscerated. In my opinion the term "Dream Team" never applied
to anyone except the 11-hall-of-famer-deep '92 squad, and the verbiage needs to
be retired for good.
stupid though. One of his more admirable qualities the past few years has been
his fairly clear disinterest in what the masses think of him. The statement was
as much gamesmanship as anything else, and given the perception (real or
imagined) after various injuries that this American team is not as sound and
gold-guaranteed as previous versions, it probably didn't hurt internally to
stir the pot.
been made of this team only defeating Brazil by 11 (after trailing) and
Argentina by six during its exhibition sked. But perhaps lost in that doubt is
how well they've played during stretches. Kevin Durant torched Argentina Sunday
with seven threes. LeBron James scored 30 points against Brazil. When you have
the best team on paper in the world, somebody is going to step up.
don't have an interior scorer who they can throw it to on the block, the loss
of Blake Griffin hurts, but it's a bigger loss to ticket buyers at the Olympic
basketball arena in search of highlight-reel dunks. The international game is more
perimeter-oriented, and while you live and die by the jump shot, the States (on
paper anyways) is just too talented in transition to not be the favourite. And
without question, they are the best defensive team in the tournament.
they've come home disappointed before. In Athens eight years ago, the squad's
poor architecture and lack of cohesion resulted in a bronze medal. The team
that beat them in the semis in '04, Argentina, got a brilliant performance from
a then-27-year-old Manu Ginobili.
later, what is called the "Golden Generation" of Argentina basketball is still
intact. Ginobili, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni and Carlos Delfino have played
together on the team for a decade, cohesion often cited as an advantage. And
when you consider that Ginobili and Scola do battle several times a year with
the likes of Bryant and Durant, you know that this is a team that can hang with
the USA (as evidenced Sunday).
The Brothers Gasol plus Ibaka
competition the Americans will face however is Spain. While I mentioned that
the international game is less about size and more about perimeter play, the
U.S. is actually at a disadvantage here. Pau and Marc Gasol join Serge Ibaka to
form a formidable front line, and LeBron James knows Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love
and Anthony Davis will have their hands full defensively.
"When a shot
goes up you got to try and keep them off the glass because they're so big,"
James told reporters in Barcelona Monday.
backcourt is sound with the Raptors' (for now) Jose Calderon manning the point
and deadly shooter Juan Carlos Navarro at the two, but you have to wonder how
much better this team would be if they had Ricky Rubio healthy.
Americans defeated Spain in the gold medal game in Beijing four years ago, and
that's very likely what's going to happen again this time.
Raptors pick key to Lithuanian team
Fifth in the
FIBA men's rankings going into London is Lithuania. Raptors fans shouldn't have
to rely on grainy, illegal web feeds with pop-up ads in order to see centre Jonas
Valanciunas over the next two weeks. Toronto's first-round pick from 2011 is
the kid on this team -- at 20, the next youngest player is six years older than
him. Given his development however, he's an important piece alongside fellow
Raptor Linas Kleiza and former NBAer Darius Songaila.
This is a
proud basketball nation -- players from the former Soviet republic such as
Arvydas Sabonis and Sarunas Marciulionis formed the core of the Cold War-era
Soviet basketball powerhouses, and following independence in 1991, they won
three straight Olympic bronze medals.
that ended the Canadian men's medal hopes the last time they made it to an
Olympics, France, shouldn't be a medal threat this time around, but they could
Tony Parker --
forced to wear protective eyewear for the Games after taking glass to the eye
in the midst of the Drake-Chris Brown Manhattan bar brawl last month -- insisted
to media Tuesday that the Americans are beatable. "In competition anything can
happen," Parker told Agence France Presse.
NBAers Nicolas Batum, Ronny Turiaf, Kevin Seraphin, Nando de Colo and Boris
Diaw -- all 300 pounds of him -- form the backbone of France's roster behind
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