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Friday, 29 August 2008

Does winning make Team USA any less arrogant?

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I was interested to read this entry on You Been Blinded, which quotes Glen Saville, Australian Boomer, as saying that all of Team USA, except for Kobe Bryant, "carried on like pork chops."

To translate that from the Aussie vernacular, what 'Sav' is trying to say is, that Kobe was the only player on Team USA not to make a tool of himself in terms of his attitude towards his opponents.

The easy approach to take in this instance, by American supporters, is to say something along the lines of, "you lost, you're just bitter! USA! USA! USA!" All you need to do is check the comments section in almost any Olympics-related article to find these sorts of attitudes springing forth.

It's sometimes hard to look from the outside looking in and realise how people look from the perspective of others, but perhaps the perceived aura of arrogance that surrounds USA squads is not totally unfounded.

Now of course the media has driven us to death with the moniker "Redeem Team." This name had a two-fold meaning. The first part was obviously for USA to reclaim their place as the top basketball nation in the world. The second, less emphasised part, was to regain dignity after gaining some poor press based on their apparent arrogance and disrespect for both their nation and their opponents.

Kobe, LeBron and Co certainly fulfilled the first part of the redemption, but did they achieve the second part? That is the question we pose here today.

Now, back to Saville's claim that the USA (less Bryant) acted like pork chops in their match up. Australians are known as some of the best competitors sports-wise in the world; a country of only 20 million people that competes like one 10 times that size. Australians are used to a fairly large level of success and do not need to bring whining or complaining into it in order to please their nation with their performance. This is why it seems unlikely that Saville (along with some of his teammates) was complaining unnecessarily that USA were not being totally sporting about the affair.

The debate on this topic is pretty pointless amongst sports fans, as none of us were on the court to witness the reality of it all, however I will point you to look at the final handshakes after USA had disposed of Australia quite cleanly. From my viewing of that sequence, Bryant was indeed the only player to make an effort to talk to each player he shook hands with and in particular LeBron James did not appear to even look the players in the eye as he shook hands with them all.

You may say, "big deal." However it must be remembered that many of these players are to an extent role models of their opponents and are looked up to. James is one of the most marketed sports personalities on the planet. The least he could do after knocking over an opponent is to shake hands, look them in the eye and commend them on their performance, just the same as any good sportsman does even in their local rec league.

The 2008 Olympics are history now. The Americans won the Gold. Did they redeem themselves?

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Thursday, 28 August 2008

NBA in China : Bucks v Warriors in October

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The NBA has announced that the Milwaukee Bucks will face the Golden State Warriors in The China Games, to be held in Beijing and Guangzhou on October 18 and 15, respectively. The Beijing game will be the first event staged in the arena after the Olympics and the Guangzhou game will be the NBA's first foray into that city.

No doubt the NBA are excited to have Yi Jianlian playing in China, after doing the same marketing exercise with Yao Ming previously. Whoops... you mean to say that Yi doesn't play for the Bucks any more? There's a good chance that the organising involved with getting this event ready took some time and this was before Milwaukee had pulled the pin on sending Yi to New Jersey.

At least the Bucks will be sporting one very happy camper in Damon Jones, who in 2006 was the first current American NBA player to sign a deal with a Chinese sportswear company, Li-Ning. His marketing efforts will be in overdrive in October presumably.

Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd will be able to hang out at all of their favourite Beijing nightspots (the Olympic Village and the InterContinental were apparently the only places they were allowed to be during the Games) again and show their teammates a good time.

Golden State will unfortunately be without Monta Ellis, who recently sustained a severe high ankle sprain and will likely be out 3-4 months. The Warriors team that hits China will have a very different look to that of last season, with Ellis out, Baron Davis in Los Angeles and Corey Maggette now on board.

The NBA has been concentrating its international efforts for some years on capitalising on the massive Chinese market. The continuation of the China Games is another step in marketing the product to the Chinese people, who embraced Team USA's NBA stars during the Beijing Olympics, second only to their own national team.

Tsingtao Beer
recently signed on as a major sponsor of the NBA in China and this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of major marketing deals. As the New York Times notes, the sports marketing and sponsorship market in China "has grown into a $15-billion-a-year industry, up from about $1 billion a year in 1994, according to Zou Marketing, a sports marketing consulting firm in Shanghai."

NBA stars are sports icons in China, which excites Stern and Co in a big way. The Times goes on to say, "more than most countries, sports marketing experts say, Chinese fans will back only athletes with personality and a long winning streak, meaning many top athletes may fall flat here."

The only thing that paragraph does is leave me confused as to how Tracy McGrady and Damon Jones have been so successful in the Chinese market.

Check out Brewhoop and Golden State of Mind for more previews on the 2008 China Games.

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Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Today's Warnings : 27 August, 2008

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Without further ado, here are your warnings for today:

  • Move over Boom Dizzle, the Spanish Fly is in the house, say the Hoop Doctors. Some great videos there comparing Baron Davis with Ricky Rubio, though I think some may have issue with that nickname... is Rudy Fernandez known as the Spanish Fly?
  • A great roundup of Aussie basketball news and some Spanish Fly-swatting (or grabbing) imagery from JR.
  • The greatest athlete Phil Jackson has ever coached? MJ? Kobe? No, Dennis Rodman. I really can't argue with that. The guy was amazing.
  • Well-known Chicago reporter Jay Mariotti has left the Sun-Times. Where he goes, nobody knows.
  • Jeff Foster, Indiana Pacers' "glue guy."
  • And One has been going Lego Crazy lately. I have to admit, I have an Antoine Walker lego man and he's much more flexible and much more reliable from long-range than the real one.
  • Suggestions on how the new OKC NBA entry can build a rapport with the local fans, including bringing former NBA power forward and renowned jazz musician, Wayman Tisdale in. Sadly, Tisdale lost a leg yesterday during his fight with cancer. He has been very positive about the whole experience, voiced on his website.
  • Preparing for your fantasy NBA draft already? Well don't put these guys too high on your list.
  • Celtics Blog is happy with the future. The children are our future.

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Kevin Duckworth : Rest In Peace

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The tragic news of Kevin Duckworth's passing came to me originally from fellow Trail Blazer fan, Henry Abbott's Truehoop blog. Duckworth formed part of the greatest Blazers team in recent memory and was part of that same squad that made me a fan of the Blazers in the first place.

Whilst most of the accolades on that team went to Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter, it is easy to forget that big KD was a two-time all-star in a period that was absolutely stacked with quality centres. In fact, without Duck's 7'0" frame inside, the Blazers would have struggled to defend the like of David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Brad Dougherty and Rony Seikaly that ran rampant during that great period of top-flight centres. Consequently, he was one of the keys to the Blazers twice making it to the Finals.

There has been a great showing of grief in the NBA world on his death. Here are a selection of tributes to big Kevin Duckworth.

Rest in peace big fella.

No way José : the Spanish perspective

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Well, well. There certainly has been some conjecture over our article yesterday on José Calderón's opinion that there were some inaccuracies in the way the Gold Medal match between USA and Spain was officiated.

A Spanish reader has commented that the main problem that Spanish fans had, was with perceived travelling violations on the Americans which were committed where steps were taken before putting the ball down on the floor. Our friend then provided some examples of where this was an issue.

The first example (below), shows LeBron James take a couple of steps in the backcourt before putting the ball down:

Next up, we have a Kobe breakway dunk. I have to admit, I have trouble seeing the point where Mamba actually received the ball on this one:

And finally, a Juan Carlos Navarro parody of the USA, with a "mock travel" in the game's dying seconds:

Now, I can certainly see that there may have been examples of this happening. It's also worth noting for our American readers, that many players from the USA who take on roles as imports in foreign leagues often have trouble in the early going getting used to the fact that they have to put the ball on the floor before taking off, as there is a difference in the way that rule is treated in the USA and in the rest of the world.

However, as many gracious Spanish fans have admitted, this difference didn't cost Spain the game. At least, it's unlikely that it did.

As some American fans have pointed out, there was also a questionable elbow that sent Chris Bosh to the floor late in the game, in a case of one Gasol brotha' hookin' anotha' brotha' up. If someone has youtubage of that hit, then by all means, link it in the comments.

For those that want to continue the debate on this, there has been plenty of talk between fans from all walks of life on HoopsHype, Slam, ClubLakers Forum and Ballhype amongst many others.

However, let's leave the last word on what some have described as one of the greatest international games of basketball ever, to José Calderón himself, "Thank you all for your support and your confidence."

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Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Today's Warnings : 26 August, 2008

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Coming at you like a Rudy Fernandez dunk, here are Today's Warnings (with a distinctly Aussie flavour):

  • We've already mentioned the Rod Benson article on how his blogging may be affecting his shot at making an NBA roster. Australian pro player John Rillie weighs in with his thoughts on being a blogger-player and how the NBL could embrace this to promote the game. Any basketball fan in Australia knows that the NBL needs as much promotion as it can get. It's the biggest identified problem in the league according to most fans.
  • Speaking of improving the league, if you're an Aussie basketball fan, complete this survey that a research student at RMIT is completing on fixing the NBL and ball in Oz.
  • Patrick Mills squarely in the sights of the NBA's radar.
  • Following on from yesterday's 5 top Latino dunks, here are the 5 worst dunks in NBA dunk comp history.
  • I don't think Charles Barkley should be commenting on anyone's golf game, but he does here with MJ.
  • Stories about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar from Basketbawful, including the fact that the legend may be a bit short on cash.
  • Hardwood Paroxysm discusses the "what were you thinking??" type decision that the Suns made in dealing the very promising DJ Strawberry.

Late Update: very sad news has come to light, with the passing of Kevin Duckworth, aged 44. Big KD was an underrated player for a two-time all-star and part of the Blazers at my favourite ever time to be an NBA fan. Rest in peace big fella.

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José Calderon : Spain would have won under FIBA rules

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EuroBasket 2005 Spain v Croatia

Spain pushed Team USA to their limits in the Men's Olympic Basketball Gold Medal Game. José Calderon, who was injured and could not take part in the game, in fact believes that Spain should have won the match.

On Calderon's personal blog, he was a little coy about the topic, going only so far as to say, "Now is not the time to discuss the referees, injuries, absences..." However, on news site El Mundo, he aired his opinion a little more clearly in the Olympic blog he maintained for the site.

(Please note that this translation is a combination of my rudimentary Spanish knowledge and that of google's translator service)

"This is not the time to speak of officiating, but I think with the FIBA rules we would have won. That is why we are a little annoyed, because we were right there at the finish line and we have just missed out."

He makes a point on both blogs of pointing out that Spain is a team and plays as such and that this is their strength. There is no doubt that this is what took the Spaniards to such a high level in the Games, despite missing out at the end.

Calderon's point regarding the rules does require some consideration though. Did the rule changes and different interpretation of those existing rules by FIBA (to come more in line with NBA rules) give an advantage to the Americans? If you were a conspiracy theorist, would you then take that one step further to ask the question as to whether the rules were changed/interpreted differently by FIBA in order to keep USA Basketball interested in international basketball and continue to send top players to compete?

So, to what rule changes exactly is Calderon referring? There have been no specific rule changes that came into effect prior to the Olympics per se, however there has been a perceived difference in the way the rules have been interpreted by referees, in the eyes of many observers. These differences mainly centre around travelling violations, charge/block calls, carrying violations and continuation on shooting fouls.

There have however been legislative changes made to the rules by FIBA, that will come into effect at later dates. At FIBA's 25-26 April, 2008 meeting the Board agreed on a series of rule changes which would come into play after the Olympics, ie from 1 October, 2008 and then a greater set of rule changes that would be effective after the 2010 World Championships (post 1 October, 2010).

The October 2008 rule changes are fairly insignificant and mainly involve backcourt violations and unsportsmanlike/technical fouls. The 2010 rule changes is where FIBA really sends their daughter into bed with David Stern.

As of 2010, the three point line will come out to 6.75m to move toward the NBA's line. The key will no longer be a trapezoid, but will become an NBA-styled rectangle. No-charge semi-circles will be marked under the basket. In short, FIBA basketball will become the NBA -- they just need to adjust the zone defence rules to marry up fully.

So why has FIBA made these rule changes? "The recommendations by the FIBA Technical Commission and the decisions taken by the Central Board were strived by the attempt to further unify all existing game rules and to have, in the future, only one set of rules for the game of basketball worldwide."

The emphasis above is mine. The obvious thing to be noted here however, is that most of the changes in the relationship have come from FIBA's side. The marriage counsellor surely isn't doing their job properly.

Howard Beck of the New York Times: "Winning Olympic gold in Beijing depended partly on Team USA’s ability to cope with the unfamiliar geometry of the international game: a trapezoidal lane, a shallow 3-point arc and a contorted array of driving lanes.
But in two years, the trapezoid will be dead, the arc will be a little deeper and the international game will be a bit closer in style to the N.B.A.’s."

The view from the outside is that of course the NBA has always been very resistant to rule changes that would affect the product they are promoting. David Stern wants to maintain a league which demostrates excitement, with one-on-one matchups, slashing to the basket and serious athletic dunking on display. So FIBA no doubt felt forced to comprimise in the NBA's direction if the two were ever to meet up. Are the changes good for the game worldwide? That's questionable and to a large extent a matter of taste. Is strawberry or chocolate ice cream tastier?

The angle coming from FIBA on this is that they like the NBA rules and saw a need for these changes:

Basketball officials in the United States welcomed the changes, although they did not specifically push for them.

“It’s also probably an endorsement of our game and our rules,” said Jerry Colangelo, the managing director of the senior national team for USA Basketball.

Although it appears that the international game is moving toward the American model, “that is not the way the FIBA board who made the decision actually felt about it,” said Patrick Baumann, the secretary general for FIBA. The goals of the association’s board, he said, were much broader than merely standardizing the game.

In FIBA’s view, the 3-point shot has become too common. In 1984, when the arc was added in international play, only 14 percent of all field-goal attempts were 3-pointers, Baumann said. Now, he added, that number is 40 percent and players routinely make 38 to 40 percent of them.

“The board felt that’s no longer now an exceptional shot,” Baumann said. “It felt something needed to be done.”

What do you think? Are the changes for the good of the game internationally? Does Calderon have a point in relation to these past Olympics and how they were officiated?

Update: with video analysis

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Monday, 25 August 2008

Today's Warnings : 25 August, 2008

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The Olympics are over and now the main focus falls back onto the preparation for the club seasons around the world. Pre-season games have commenced in Australia, many major signings are occuring across the European leagues and there are rumours floating around the NBA. Here's a sample of today's warnings:

  • The Memphis Edge reports a rumour that a trade may be in the works to send Travis Outlaw to Memphis in order to snare a pure point guard for the Blazers. That PG would presumably be Greg Oden's buddy, Mike Conley Jr or Kyle Lowry. I could only see Kevin Pritchard looking to get Conley Jr if he were to give up Outlaw. In fact, I doubt that he would want to give up Outlaw full stop, given the promise he is showing. It will be very interesting to see if this tale has any tail.
  • Sports Business Daily reveals the NBA's continued march into China, with a "multiyear strategic marketing partnership set to feature TV and online campaigns aimed at growing China’s audience for basketball," signed with top Chinese beer Tsingtao. The same article points out that this sponsorship is but one of many that the NBA has signed in China.
  • The Oregonian gives their final Olympic impressions of Rudy Fernandez and that dunk on Dwight Howard.
  • Ball Don't Lie: does Rod Benson inhibit his chances of breaking into the NBA by being a blogger? It's an interesting question in this age where more and more players/owners are blogging..... and doing reality TV shows.
  • Truehoop: sad news of the loss of life of a number of junior basketballers.
  • CMNetwork blog: Five nice Latino dunks.

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Carnival of the NBA #59 : We're all Jokers

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Roll up! Roll up to the Carnival of the NBA...

Don't be afraid, boys and girls.

How about a magic trick? I'll make this pencil disappear....

This Carnival is a nod to my fellow countryman and remarkable actor, the late Heath Ledger, most recently known as The Joker.

Empty the Bench has been playing a few card tricks lately. They've even found a new super hero: the Ripmaster.

Of course, if you want to perform some tricks of your own when the next Fantasy Basketball season rolls around, you better get yourself over to Give Me The Rock. They warn of the follies of youth -- that's right boys and girls.

But just remember, whatever doesn't kill you, only makes you... stranger.

Every good super hero, from Batman to Superman, has had his links to politics. LeBron James is no different, so it seems. But is he the only one with political links?

Every Batman needs a Robin. Will LBJ be getting another sidekick in Cleveland with the arrival of Zach Randolph?

Super heroes need uniforms. They also need to make sure that those uniforms remain up to date with the latest in technology. That's why the Timberwolves got Alfred to work on a new model.

In the world of Gotham there are numerous shady characters. Carolyn at And One found one of them undercover as a sports writer. The art of disguise is important.

I guess that undercover sports writers would reveal pieces of information that otherwise wouldn't come to light. Pieces of information such as the scripts for the forthcoming Gilbert Arenas Reality TV Show, for example.

See, I'm a man of simple tastes. I like dynamite...and gunpowder...and gasoline! Do you know what all of these things have in common? They're cheap!

Soon, NBA fans may have have their tastes satisfied, with streaming NBA TV coming at them.

The villains always want to take down a super hero. Becoming a target makes it so much harder to do your job. The Boston Celtics are those super heroes that have made themselves a target as of next season -- what do they have to do to repeat as NBA champions?

The Celtics are not the only heroes in the basketball world at the moment. Team USA proved their super powers at the Olympics this week, taking out gold in both the men's and women's events. 20 Second Timeout took a look at 5 key observations about these American heroes.

Meanwhile, John Rillie examined the Olympics basketball aftermath in general.

Not everyone can fly though. As WHB points out, some people need trampolines to fly.

Why so serious?? Let's put a smile on that face!

There are always new super heroes coming onto the scene, but it's important not to lose sight of our past. Ballerblogger remembers the ultimate heroes, the Dream Team and their historic Gold Medal in 1992.

Meanwhile, Green Bandwagon remembers former Celtic point guard, Sherman Douglas.

Thanks for stopping by the Carnival. Before you go, tell me something, my friend. You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?

Update: It has come to our attention that an urgent roundtable of super-bloggers has been called to solve the rife problems of crime in smaller NBA markets.

If bloggers reading want to get involved with the Carnival of the NBA, join the group at Ballhype. You can also get information on upcoming (and past) editions of the carnival at blogcarnival.com.

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Saturday, 23 August 2008

BDL: Eddy Curry the Gymnast entry

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Finally, an early photo has been unearthed of aspiring young gymnast, Eddy Curry.

Of course, there is also conjecture that this could just be an entry in Ball Don't Lie's Eddy Curry Photoshop competition too.

Friday, 22 August 2008

News the Trail Blazers did not want to hear

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Darius Miles has signed with the Boston Celtics on a non-guaranteed contract.

In other words, the C's have taken a shot on the oft-injured, oft-questioned and much maligned forward and will bring him into training camp to prove himself.

Talk has been circulating for some time that the Celtics were taking a look at Miles. This is news that the Portland Trail Blazers definitely were not looking forward to hearing.

If Miles is to play ten games in the league, he will hit Portland's cap space. To see detailed analysis of how this would work, see two great posts from Dave at Blazersedge over a month ago, here and here.

The fact remains however, that Miles will have serve a 10 game ban initially, as part of his infringement of the Anti-Drug Policy of the league. That is assuming of course, that the Celtics are happy with his play and think that he can contribute to the team.

Miles has a lot of reasons to make this happen. Two of those being his pride at stake and the fact that he'll be playing for a very genuine title contender.

The Celtics can afford to take a gamble on Miles, as they already have a very strong locker room and a very strong roster. Miles could be a very handy addition, given the loss of James Posey to the Hornets. The other, side factor to all of this is the residual matter of the C's eating into Portland's cap room. As much as Danny Ainge would never admit it, that is a nice bonus in being able to inhibit a competitor.

(photo courtesy of atibaphoto.com)

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Today's Warnings : 22 August, 2008

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A few foil-wrapped randomly inserted in 1:10,000 packs of news today, from different parts of this roundball we call Earth:

  • NBL: Ebi Ere of the South Dragons has given coach Brian Goorjian his second piece of bad news for the week (after the Boomers lost to Team USA), with his apparent non-return to the NBL next season. Ere has impressed with the Memphis Grizzlies and appears to have stuck on their roster for training camp, after previous stints on the fringes of the NBA. One of the most unstoppable scorers the NBL has ever seen, he will be sorely missed by the Dragons. He put up one of the most electrifying performances I have had the good fortune to see in person, when he took the 2004 title from the clutches of the West Sydney Razorbacks in Game 5 and set the Sydney Kings fans alight (see below). John Rillie I'm sure still shudders when watching this one. Footage of Ere's replacement here.
  • NBA: Skeets at BDL enjoyed our Eddy Curry gymnast story and has a great little related photoshop competition going -- get involved!
  • Olympics: Highly anticipated match USA v Argentina is in progress right now -- get involved in the always-fun live blog. Truehoop also has some great pre-game points.
  • Olympics: There are some female athletes that even straight men don't want to see stripping off.
  • Olympics: Spain is off to the Men's Gold Medal game vs _______ after beating Lithuania in a tough one.

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Thursday, 21 August 2008

No, no, Eddy Curry *really* was a gymnast

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I say was because there's no way I can see our land-locked friend getting up on those bars now, but Eddy Curry was indeed at one time an aspiring gymnast.

What the hell am I talking about you may ask? Well, I was alerted to this bit of trivia by our friend Skeets over at Ball Don't Lie, who spied the wiki entry on Curry and found something odd:

"Curry aspired to be a gymnast and did not pick up basketball until the seventh grade when he reluctantly went out for the school team. According to his father, Eddy Curry Sr., 'For a long time, Eddy hated basketball. Being a gymnast was his backyard dream, I guess.'" Knowing the edit will be corrected and wanting to preserve this for posterity, I took a screenshot of the page..."

I decided to do a bit of investigating myself and as it turns out, much like Hakeem Olajuwon once was a Soccer Goalkeeper in the making, Curry was a young Shawn Johnson at one point. It's not a joke at all... Check out this October 2005 article by Scoop Jackson at ESPN:

Eddy Curry is a 22-year-old individual. Since he was 11, he knew what he was going to do for the rest of his life.

He was into gymnastics, but when is the last time you saw a 7-foot black male gymnast in the Olympics?

He knew that the NBA was going to be the end of his journey. It wasn't a matter of how, but how soon.

The article doesn't mention any more than that, but at least it's some verification of the seemingly impossible. Can you imagine Eddy Curry on those rings? Well look at the top of this page; you can now.

There is also a February 2008 reference on a Knicks message board to Curry's High School coach saying that he wanted to be a gymnast, here.

So, we've learnt two things today. (1) Eddy Curry wanted to be a gymnast; and (2) When you don't have Photoshop available and you're forced to use MS Paint, results are a bit like an Eddy Curry triple somersault.

Redeem Team Crushes Aussie Dream -- But Not Mills

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No surprises.

That was the score. The expected outcome was reached. Australian basketball fans dreamt of the Cinderella story, the Rocky-like miracle victory. Then the Redeem Team, aka the USA Men's Basketball team, smashed the glass slipper on the ground before midnight even came around and the pumpkin carriage could arrive.

The Aussies kept it tight for the first quarter and the USA players certainly looked flustered and somewhat surprised. Most of that came from a very poor three-point shooting performance by the red white'n'blues early on and Australia stopping baskets underneath with some solid fouls which were not converted upon.

Ultimately, everyone in Australia knew that a "miracle" was needed to pull out victory, against a squad that has dominated all comers. The 11 point game prior to the Olympic tournament (sans Andrew Bogut) was just a smokescreen and Team USA had turned on all cylinders by the time this match came around.

USA goes on to deal with Argentina and likely Spain as they try to take the Gold Medal unhindered. Australia battles for the fifth place, the best consolation available at this stage.

However a lot can be taken from this campaign for the Aussies. The team is very young and one star in particular has jumped to the forefront of the public consciousness: Patrick Mills. The 5'11" 19-year old has proven on more than one occasion in this tournament that he is not at all intimidated by players at the highest level. NBA scouts will no doubt be watching him, as many fans are.

Guarded by Chris Paul, the player he most resembles on Team USA, he showed no signs of struggle as he danced to the basket on more than one drive; even taking and and-one from Paul himself at one point when the game was still in contention.

Even Coach K was impressed with Mills and said what everyone else was thinking:

"I'm glad my Duke team doesn't play St. Mary's," U.S. Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "He'll be an NBA guard."

An accolade from a coach is one thing, a nicety if you will. But getting an NBA superstar to admit that he got beaten, that's another thing.

"He's quick, he can move," said U.S. point guard Chris Paul. "I read something that said that he's faster than me. They're probably right."

As always however, Mills is self-effacing and humble. He sees the benefit of this exposure, not to himself, but to his school.

"Hopefully this does a lot for St. Mary's program," Mills said. "And we can progress in the NCAA tournament."

This is the type of player Australia has leading them into the next decade of international basketball. The future looks bright.

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Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Olympic Basketball : Australia Boomers v Team USA (1pm GMT)

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Well, it's game time soon. One team has to accept that they will not be walking home with medals around their necks and the other goes on to battle it out with the likes of Spain (who beat Croatia 72-59 this morning).

Many people are searching for the game time on this one, so let's make it clear:

Men's Olympic Basketball: Australia v USA
1pm GMT
8am US ET
10pm AUS ET

I'm sure you can work out your obscure timezone with reference to those above!

Key Links

Ball Don't Lie will once again be live-blogging this match.

BrewHoop has their allegiances crossed -- Redd or Bogut?? They have a load of links the size of Chris Kaman's conscience.

...a stern warning : our preview from yesterday of keys to victory.

Oh, and if you're looking for a place to watch the game online, I may know a guy who knows a guy that found a place, so email me.

Go Boomers!

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Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Today's Warnings : 19 August, 2008

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Here's what's happening around the scorched nets:

You've been warned! Hit the link below to get email updates...

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Monday, 18 August 2008

Next up: Team USA v Australian Boomers

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Olympics Day 6 - Basketball

The Australian Boomers shocked a lot of people, perhaps even themselves, with their thrashing of the previously undefeated Lithuania, 106-75. As Lithuanian star Linas Kleiza said after the match, "I hope they continue to do that against the United States. If they play like they did today, maybe they have a chance."

That is where Australia find themselves -- matching up against might of the Redeem Team. Both of these teams have been reviewed and analysed to death. Scroll down to the bottom of this article for some links to reviews. What we're going to discuss here is, what factors could get the Aussie Boomers a win here and what factors could see Team USA run away with an expected win; a knockout punch on their way to the Gold Medal match.

How will AUSTRALIA surprise Team USA?

1. Composure -- the Americans rely on their athleticism to run teams off the court. Even in their biggest of blowout matches, USA has started out with fairly close first quarters, with their opponents relying on early addrenalin to allow them to keep up with the more physically dominant NBA greyhounds. However after one quarter of pressure, teams tend to tire and forget what their coaching staff have drilled into them. They fall to the full court press that Team USA throws out there and start to give away steals at mid-court to Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Before you know it, USA has turned a single figure game into a 15-20 point game and their opponents put their heads down in submission.

Australia's point guard combo of CJ Bruton and Patrick Mills have to play the games of their life to ensure they keep a steady ship for the Boomers. Bruton will be relied upon in the early going to set the tempo, show his veteran savvy and hopefully knock down a couple of threes. Mills will be brought on for a change of pace and has already shown that he can blow by the best of them in this tournament. He did the same against Chris Paul in the pre-Olympic warmup between these two. Steady point guard play equals steady offence, which in turn leads to less USA fast breaks.

2. Defence -- Perhaps the most deflating thing that Team USA does to it's opponents, more than the chest-bumping, more than the strips and fast-break dunks, is the way they come back at you after you've just scored and convert on a touchdown pass within 2 seconds of you sinking a basket you worked so hard for. Brian Goorjian is renowned for his defensive strategies. He might not be the most gifted offensive coach in the world, but he certainly knows how to motivate a team to play hard-nosed D. He will be preaching to the Boomers that they need to have at least two men back immediately on every play to prevent the American fast break.

3. Bigs -- Australia (like most countries) clearly has a bigger stable of low-post players than USA does. In general this hasn't caused a problem for the Redeemers in most games, as they spend most of their time in the open court, without their interior weakness being exploited. However, if the Boomers can get some early fouls on Dwight Howard and if Andrew Bogut can continue his scorching recent form, the boys in green and gold may be able to gain a solid advantage inside. Bogut, along with David Andersen, Matt Nielsen and Chris Anstey have the ability to do some damage inside on offence. At the other end, they all stand 7-feet or thereabouts and will intimidate many shots in the paint.

4. Perimeter shooting -- the type of shooting display that Australia put on against Lithuania would come in handy again, however those types of performances (16/25 from deep) don't come along often. What the Boomers do need is for one player to spark up from the outside. If that player can be David Barlow, all the better, as he will draw LeBron James (his likely defender) out of the key where he has been a menace defensively against many teams (credit to John Rillie for this thought). Barlow and Brad Newley have both had solid Olympics campaigns so far -- coming out parties if you will. If they can pull that out of the bag against USA, the Boomers might not be going home just yet.

How will TEAM USA keep their undefeated run alive?

1. Full-court defence -- taking other teams out of their gameplan is what has kept every team at arm's distance so far for the Americans in this tournament. Even the might of Spain eventually fell prey to the USA full-court press. If they can continue to generate offence from their defence, it will be very hard for Australia to score enough points at the other end to keep up. This will also keep the interior weakness of Team USA under wraps.

2. Use matchups -- USA may have some weaknesses in overall height, but as Henry Abbott at Truehoop pointed out, they certainly have a huge advantage over most teams at the swingmen positions. In height. In weight. In terrifying atheltic power. Whilst Carmelo Anthony's well-documented alergy to defence may give Nielsen some opportunities for isolations at one end, LBJ, Kobe and DWade will have field day in many cases against the swingmen put up against them. This is the way the NBA works, it's a man-on-man game designed for athletic superstars. If any of these guys can get some room, whilst being guarded by Newley, Barlow or Mark Worthington, the like their chances of getting to the basket or at least drawing a foul from the help D of the Aussie bigs.

3. Role players -- whilst the USA superstars are the bread-and-butter for this team, their memories are not short enough to forget that to win International tournaments you have to rely on guys that do the other things as well. Michael Redd and Tayshaun Prince in particular will have to be used to knock down threes and play tight D respectively, where needed.

4. Respect -- this team has been remarkably humble to date, though they are coming from a low base given the performances of some previous USA ensembles in the past 8 years. It is important that USA continues to not lose sight of the bigger picture in this tournament and not lose respect for their opponents, even a team like Australia. For too long the benchmark in American culture has centred around how many NBA players a team has in identifying a winner. The NBA-less Greek team soon proved that wrong in recent times and Team USA better not forget that a team that plays well together needn't be a team of individual superstars. In short, don't lose sight of the chance that Australia CAN win this game -- and from here, it's like the NCAA tournament.

Further Resources

[...a stern warning] Australian Boomers Preview

[JR, On Fire] Australia v USA match preview

[Green Bandwagon] Australian Boomers Preview

[Brewhoop] Following Bogut's Progress

Great interview with Patrick Mills where he talks about his NBA ambitions and the Boomers:

Such a great, humble guy with so much talent.

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Saturday, 16 August 2008

Today's Warnings : 16 August, 2008

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As USA finishes off Spain (119-82), in what wasn't as close a game as what we might have hoped, let's turn our attention to what else is going on in the world of basketball:

  • Ben Gordon is done with the Chicago Bulls, apparently. Now, who has the money to sign him? Or will he follow the European route?
  • Australia on their way to the next round of the Men's Basketball, after defeating Russia this morning behind very solid performances by Andrew Bogut and CJ Bruton (22 points each).
  • The World's best paid male athletes, with MJ still sitting at number 3 behind Tiger and Becks.
  • Red's Army: Paul Pierce (the self-proclaimed world's best player) with his thoughts on everything and anything in an ESPN radio interview.
  • John Rillie, who at one point took the European route himself (in Greece), talks about the trend for NBA players to head to the old world and how this may be related to Australian rugby league.
  • The Hoop Doctors ask why the NY Post hates Knicks fans so much.
  • Carolyn at And One gives some love to a site which I have been meaning to do the same for, Ball In Europe. Living in Europe myself, I find it great to find some other perspectives on basketball for a European, English-speaking audience.
  • Talk of Tayshaun Prince playing the four position. The interesting thing is that during that Team USA v Spain match, he was shooting (and making) a LOT of threes. So, a bit of a PF in the mould of his teammate Rasheed then?

You've been warned.

Spain 45 - 61 USA : at the half

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If you haven't been keeping up with the Ball Don't Lie live blog of the match, or watching it on TV, well you should be... but regardless, here's how the first half has panned out so far.

1st Quarter

USA seemed to be going right against their strengths by using the tried and true "get the ball to the big guy" offence, aka the Bill Cartwright offence. They kept on pounding the ball into Dwight Howard with varying success.

On the other end, Rudy Fernandez was not shy in putting up a few outside shots, whilst the ball was not yet going into Pau Gasol very much.

Spain certainly are not shy in running with USA -- taking the ball in quickly off the inbounds on more than one occasion.

Plenty of physicality early, on both sides, but in particular LeBron and Melo are dishing a bit of a beat-down out to the Spanish bigs, apparently in an attempt to disguise their lack of height.

Tight early on, with USA up 9-7 with 6:29 to go.

Dwight Howard goal-tended a shot into the stands. A shot which was well and truly short of the mark, as more of an intimidatory move. Stupid if you ask me.

Kobe shows that there is no love between NBA teammates when it comes to the Olympics, as he levels Pau Gasol!

Much of the Spanish offence is going through Rudy Fernandez and Rayez.

Jose Calderon is handling the USA pressure well. A nice fading baseline jumper over Jason Kidd. When will he be subbed for CP3/Deron?

And here we go at the 4:30 mark, CP3 and Chris Bosh come into the game. Spain replies with Juan Carlos Navarro and Marc Gasol.

USA is double-teaming Calderon A LOT. It's not doing much so far.

17-year old Ricky Rubio gets a run with 3:41 to go in the 1st. And he certainly does not look flustered against his higher profile opponents. You go boy.

3:20 to go and Wade gets a signature steal at half-court for a dunk. He follows that up with another steal in traffic in the paint.

USA is pressuring Rubio. Twice he draws fouls at halfcourt, from CP3 and then Deron.

At quarter time, it's USA 31-22.

2nd Quarter

Rubio v Kidd -- young v old. Rubio still doesn't looked fazed.

Prince comes in and hits a trey straight away.

Juan Carlos Navarro makes a foray into the paint and hits the floater.

The physicality continues as Howard gets called for a charge.

LeBron is looking very pumped in this game -- he has that look in his eyes.

As the 2nd quarter goes on, USA starts to draw this game out a bit. They are leading in three point shooting and are still killing with their patented fast breaks.

Spain ends the quarter with some full-court defence of their own, which seems surprisingly successful and pressures USA out of some shots.

54-36 USA at the half.

Team USA v Spain : Olympic Pool Match

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Olympics Day 6 - Basketball

Today we have the Men's matchup in these Olympic Games that everyone has been waiting for. USA v Greece was merely a taster -- a chance for the Redeem Team to get some form of redemption. However, everyone knows that the real redemption will not come until Team USA silences all doubters and gets on that private jet back to the land of the free with Gold Medals around their necks.

Spain represents the strongest challenge to USA standing on that middle podium at the end of these Games. This game is not important in terms of getting to the next round -- both teams will do that regardless. However, these are the likely combatants come the Gold Medal game and a huge mental edge will be attained by which ever team can come away with the W.

What can be said about these teams that hasn't already been said? Both have been covered in so much detail, both on and off the court... from unflattering team photos to battles for point guard minutes. The blogosphere and mainstream media have been all over it like a horizontally challenged child on M&Ms.

One thing to note is that Spain is very adept at handling that daunted USA press. They have one of the lowest turnover guards in NBA history in Jose Calderon manning the point and teenage phenom Ricky Rubio backing him up, along with savvy play from Juan Carlos Navarro and Rudy Fernandez. Spain will use that pick-and-roll like crazy, with the Gasol brothers rolling to the basket and giving Dwight Howard fits -- trying to get him in foul trouble.

This Spanish team should handle Team USA's strengths better than anyone else has to date. Whether they can handle them to the extent that they are winners is another story.

No doubt Kobe and LeBron will be very fired up to prove a point here. Presumably we will also get a taste from Coach K and co as to what his rotations in crunch time will be. Will we see a reduction in talisman Jason Kidd's minutes in favour of the in-form CP3 and Deron combo? Will we continue to see DWade burn up the court with his unbelievable penetration?

We all wait in anticipation. If you want to get into the spirit of the game to its full extent, regardless of whether you have vision of the game or not, I highly recommend you surf over to Ball Don't Lie blog where Skeets, KD and the gang will be live-blogging, as they have to critical acclaim for previous matches. Matching comedy with basketball -- there's nothing better is there?

Friday, 15 August 2008

Today's Warnings : 15 August, 2008

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You're getting a stern warning!

  • The basketball fans of Australia will appreciate you forever if you sign this petition to bring basketball back to free-to-air (FTA) television.
  • Ron Ron Artest is excited about his new start with the Rockets and the chance to do some big things. "This is definitely the high point of my career," Artest said in a conference call. "It's the biggest opportunity I've ever had playing basketball."
  • Some great links from Signor Rillie on his mystical tour around the basketball net.
  • You may have had quite enough coverage of the Spanish basketball team's questionable photo, but you've got to love Cuzoogle's take on it all -- apparently the next racial hit from the Spanish is against the Aussies!
  • Hilarious stuff from the Ethanator, as he unearths this video of Olympic mascots getting their biff on.
  • World Hoops Blog shows that even Americans can get into the Australian NBL.
  • This is a few days old, but I just spotted this account on SeaTown Sports of a Sonics fan who is moving allegiances in the logical direction -- Portland. As I've said before, come one, come all. Blazers fans welcome you.
  • Shaq is making things work. Marriage-wise that is.
  • Channing Frye is fast becoming one of my favourite players in the NBA, based on his humour, team-centric attitude and of course he has a pretty handy game on top of it. His blog is also one of the best out there. Here he talks about why bike riders better watch out or he'll say "frick" and "shoot" -- funny guy.
  • Luol Deng is encountering some problems with playing for Great Britain. He got the whole passport issue sorted out. Now it's a money issue -- insurance for pro athletes cost a lot and can be hard to secure at times. I have more to say about this in the near future.

Two very important games coming up tomorrow -- USA v Spain and Australia v Russia. Looking forward to them.

Vincent goes a bit Askew

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Remember Vincent Askew? Teammate of the Reignman during the good old days when everything was merry in the world of the Seattle Supersonics? Well, it turns out Mr Askew would like to turn back time as well, way back to when he was 16.

Askew has been arrested on charges of sleeping with a 16-year old girl, according to ESPN.

Askew played for eight NBA teams in nine seasons. Police said he approached the victim three months ago and told her that he was recruiting players for a Miami-Dade County prep school. Authorities said the 43-year-old and the teen later met at a hotel and had sex.

Askew was trying to get a coaching job at the school, police said.

It seems he was trying to get a bit too intimate a knowledge of the players he would be coaching.

It's not known whether he has an attorney.

Sounds like he'll need one...

Brandon Roy : surgery successful

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Brandon Roy's surgery was completed today with no major dramas. Apparently it was a quick surgery, which is always a good thing. He will be out 4-8 weeks, which will allow him to start the regular season (albeit slowly).

Here's video of Kevin Pritchard's relieved reaction:

Kevin Pritchard on Brandon Roy's knee surgery

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Brandon Roy knee injury : the sky is falling

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You know that sinking feeling, when everything seems to spin just a little bit and all externalities are totally pushed out of your consciousness? That is the feeling I got when I read this news this morning:

The Portland Trail Blazers announced today that guard Brandon Roy will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery on Thursday to repair a tear in the meniscus of his left knee. A Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) taken Tuesday revealed the tear in the meniscus.

Trail Blazers team physician Dr. Don Roberts will perform the surgery at Southwest Washington Regional Surgery Center in Vancouver, Wash.

A timetable for Roy’s return will be set following the arthroscopic surgery.

Memories of Greg Oden last off-season came flooding in... thoughts of another lost season for the Blazers...and the word "NOOOOOOO...."

However perhaps that was an over-reaction. As yet, the extent of Roy's injury is unknown. This is not microfracture surgery, this is a tear of the meniscus. Two different things -- both serious, but one moreso than the other.

I then turned to the bastion of the Blazers, Blazersedge to see Dave's measured opinion on the matter. The headline "It's Not The End Of The World" went some way to calming me. Hey, if a guy who is just as, if not more fanatical than me about the Blazers, can react in this way, then surely the sky isn't really falling. Right? Go on, Dave...

If you have read the thread below this one, covering the first few hours after the news was released, you’ll notice a tendency to take this news in the worst way possible. That’s perfectly natural given what we all went through last year with Greg Oden. But this is not the same as the Oden situation. Let’s talk about what it is and what it isn’t.

He then went on to discuss all of the information that had been gathered on the topic. And came to this summation:

Brandon Roy is having surgery. It’s not an uncommon procedure. He’s going to take a while to recover, probably between six weeks and three months. There is no reason to assume at this point that it will be any more serious than that. We will know more as soon as the surgery has been completed, which should be today.

That’s it. No more, no less.

So this certainly puts a dent in the Blazers' early season plans and preparations. Portland already had a tough schedule in their first 26 games and this will make it even tougher.

However, let's look on the bright side of things. This will temporarily (in a negative way) clear the logjam at the shooting guard spot, giving a chance to throw Rudy Fernandez and Jerryd Bayless into the fire and get the minutes to prove themselves early. Okay, I'm done with the positives right about there... if you want to add others, please do so in the comments section.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Today's Warnings : 13 August, 2008

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More links than you can point a golf club at. Links, links, links. Here are today's warnings:

  • If you missed yesterday's action in the Men's Olympic Basketball, JR has got you covered with a quality wrap-up and some other goodies. UPDATE: Answering the question of "what is happening to the Boomers?"
  • Greg Oden worked out before the media of Portland today and needless to say, they were impressed with the big man. The Oregonian has coverage here, but if you don't want to follow the link, scroll down to see reproduction of the video. And more from the Portland Tribune on Oden "exploding".
  • Brian Goorjian's reaction after the Boomers first loss (to Croatia): disappointment and shock. After the game two loss to Argentina, he is adamant that they stick with their master plan and that the wins will come. "We've got these four bigs here and I think we're starting to get them going a little bit and get the ball inside," he said."We've just got to continue and get better."The game-plan we have right now of getting the ball inside we're going to have to stick with and we're going to have to beat Iran with."I don't think we can look back now."
  • Shane Heal is fired up for his debut with the Gold Coast Blaze.
  • A blogger following the Olympics from an Argentinian perspective.
  • Patty Mills has some fans following him from the other side of the pond, near to his University.
  • Iggy gets his cash to stay with the 76ers.
  • WHB takes you around the world of basketball.
  • Jose Calderon explains what that photo was all about, via his interpreter Cuzzy at Cuzoogle.
  • SLAM interviews Nancy Lieberman on her WNBA comeback at the age of 50... can you imagine the same thing happening in the NBA? Phenomenal.

    Greg Oden works out for a crowd

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Rudy, Rudy, Rudy, Ruuudy (Fernandez)

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Name: Rodolfo "Rudy" Fernandez
Position: Shooting Guard / Small Forward
Nationality: Espana
NBA Team: Portland Trail Blazers
Reputation: Unfairly hyped? Let's wait and see...

Rudy Fernandez is a man who has been on the radar of Blazers fans for some time now. The 6'6" swingman was brought into the Portland masterplan by Kevin Pritchard by way of a trade in the 2007 NBA Draft, where deep-pocketed owner Paul Allen gave up cash in order to secure his draft rights from the Phoenix Suns.

He continued to play last season with Spanish club, Joventut Badalona, and he's had a number of eyes in Oregon following him during this period. Thankfully for Fernandez, the pressure was lessened compared to other rookies-in-waiting, as he had another big expected rookie teammate who the Blazers faithful have been sort of expecting something out of...

After an unexpectedly solid season for Portland last season, every Blazer fan's discussion has been prefaced with, "when Oden, Rudy and Bayless come next season..." and thus, as alluded to above, there's been a heap of weight placed on these relatively young shoulders (even if most of it is apportioned on the rather strong shoulders of Mr Oden).

Even future teammate Brandon Roy has been keeping a close eye on Rudy's progress at the Olympics, hoping to catch a peek at things to come. And of course, the fanatics at the centre of all Blazerness, Blazersedge have been updating his situation daily (oh okay, hourly).

After Fernandez's solid first game in Olympic competition, against the powerful Greece, Dave at Blazersedge had these thoughts on his strengths:

"Rudy has good height and appears to use it. That quickness almost makes him seem rangy. As expected he moved well without the ball when the sets called for it. He also showed good speed up and down the court. His shot and release were quick as well, both in decision-making and execution. He doesn't let grass grow under his feet when there are points to be had. He's also fast getting up in the air. One of the problems plaguing the current Blazer leapers is that their rim finishes take a long time to develop. Rudy appeared to get in the sky in a hurry. I don't have many doubts about him being able to get shots up in the NBA. Everything that's good about him happens fast."

However, he also spied some weaknesses:

"The worst part of Rudy's game by far was his defense, which, aside for a couple noticeable moments, ranged from a high of semi-adequate to a low of wholly ineffective. He was reaching, leaning, and getting beat off of the dribble with regularity in the first quarter. He got a little more active in the second quarter but still ended up getting to the spot late, getting out of position, and/or playing with his arms instead of his feet."

For the sake of Fernandez, it's nice to see all of the "wait until Rudy gets here" hyperbole (fuelled by some spectacular youtube clips) tempered with some criticism of his game. The reality is, there is a good chance that Fernandez will be a nothing more than a solid rookie next season; a player who comes off the bench and adds some punch, but also makes his fair share of mistakes. It's worth remembering after all, that the player Rudy is most compared to, in Manu Ginobili, only averaged 7-2-2 in his first year with the Spurs.

It is hard not to get caught up in some of the mild-hysteria though, especially when you look at his Olympic performances so far in Beijing, on a loaded Spanish roster.

Game 1 (v Greece): 16 points (top scorer), 2 rebounds, 3/6FG, 2 treys, 4/4FT
Game 2 (v China): 21 points (behind Pau), 8 rebounds (tied for lead), 6 assists (top), 6/11FG, 2 treys, 3/5FT

Those are solid performances in two victories against quality international competition, with the second being especially exciting. There is no doubt that the NBA game is a different beast to FIBA ball, as evidenced by Team USA's struggles in the dark 2001-2007 period. However, this still bodes well for Fernandez's NBA career.

Some points again from Dave at Blazersedge, this time on Rudy's performance v China:

"The most impressive aspect of Rudy's game--and probably THE game overall--was the way he took over when the Spanish made their comeback in the fourth. Those two drives against Yao Ming were priceless. He picked that team up and carried them on his back. Others would come along and add to the win but Rudy did it first. Brilliant. You could tell how much the coach was relying on him as well by the minutes he got."

"I still drool over how well Rudy moves without the ball no matter how many cuts I see him make. If the other Blazers will recognize the potential there and take care to get him the ball...oh boy. This showcases his quickness more than any other aspect of the game."

Walt Szczerbiak, father of Wally is the US representative (whatever that means) of the ACB League and he has seen his fair share of the swingman in action at club level. He was interviewed by the Oregonian here and had some interesting things to say.

Later that summer, Fernandez traveled to Chicago and held a private workout for several teams at the NBA pre-draft camp. At the workout, Szczerbiak said questions were raised about whether Fernandez could get past players off the dribble.

"That workout maybe brought out a few flaws in his game, and I think it maybe scared him,'' Szczerbiak said. "So even though he was on everybody's radar, he decided not to go into the draft.''

Instead, Fernandez worked on his physique and his game.

"Now, he's an explosive athlete,'' Szczerbiak said. "He had to learn to put the ball on the floor a few years ago, and he has worked on that aspect of the game to the point where the team can give him the ball and ask him to create and make a shot in a game-winning situation.''

The impression I get from all of this (and you should read the rest of that article), is that he is a player who has matured and made the right choices, in not rushing to the NBA. He refined his game with sufficient high level professional experience and stayed two years longer in the ACB than he really had to. Many kids rush to the bright lights of the NBA sooner than they should (the examples are endless). Rudy has worked his game to a level which merits his entry to the league, based on skill, not those buzz words of tremendous upside potential.

There will be many eyes on Rudy Fernandez as these 2008 Beijing Olympics play out.

Here are some highlights of Rudy in action with Spain. He gets up.