Thursday, July 24, 2008

Team USA, Jennings, and Some Summer Basketball

After a month-long blogging hiatus, I am back to give you the news from the sport I cover best: basketball. We have seen many players moving around this summer which has sent Baron Davis and Marcus Camby to LA, Elton Brand to Philly, and Maggette to Golden State to name only a few. However, all of these events pale in comparison to Team USA. Coach Krzyzewski's team has had more pressure put on them than ever before with some even claiming that if we fail this year, we'll never win another one.

Nonetheless, I simply cannot see our boys losing over in China. Jason Kidd and a team-oriented Kobe Bryant are the veterans on a team that has been playing and practicing together since two summers ago.

LeBron James has even gone ahead and guaranteed a win which, as most of us already know, is not always a smart thing to do in sports. If you've read my past blogs, you already know my stance on guarantees. They are extremely dumb and only put more pressure on the guarantor's team.

I would be even more skeptical of James's statement had Team USA not dominated last year at the FIBA Americas Championship, which included an impressive 91-76 victory of Argentina in the final.

The keys for Team USA will be the same as they were last summer. The main one is to play as a team out on the court and not try to do everything one-on-one. Another is to get up and down the court (the way Coach K has been preaching to them about). After all, they usually have the five most athletic players on the court. Finally, they need to play team defense and that goes for everyone, including Carmelo.

Speaking of basketball on a worldly stage, Brandon Jennings, an Arizona commit, has recently decided to forgo college all together and spend his one year out of high school playing over in Europe. Frankly, I think it's for the best. The NBA is becoming more and more European in the way they play the game of basketball which is why a year over there for Jennings can do nothing but good for him. Besides, he was going to be a one-and-done anyway.

In Las Vegas, meanwhile, rookies Jerryd Bayless and Donte Greene were busy lighting up their opponents, averaging 30 and 23 points respectively. Some other rookies that made an impact were Anthony Randolph (21 ppg, 8 rpg), Kevin Love (18 ppg, 14 rpg), and Marreese Speights (18 ppg, 10 rpg). Non-rookies, such as Quincy Douby (22 ppg) and Ramon Sessions (15 ppg, 7 apg, 5 rpg), also made an impact.

At the Orlando Pro Summer League, Michael Beasley put on a show with 28 points and 9 rebounds in his first professional basketball game. However, the man who was taken ahead of Beasley, Derrick Rose, has had a rough start. He sat out of the past two games due to injuries and has averaged 5 turnovers per game.

Also in Orlando, Russell Westbrook has had a decent summer league so far, proving the doubters wrong. For people like me though, he has just reassured us that a ROY award isn't an impossible feat next season.

After all this, you must still keep in mind that a summer league is a summer league and that great numbers in July don't translate to good number in the regular season. They provide only an inkling of what the player is capable of doing at the pro level. Besides, many of these players (especially those playing for postseason contenders) won't even get significant playing time this season.

So there you have it. That's the summer news for professional basketball right now. Be sure to tune in tomorrow night to watch Team USA take on Canada in an exhibition game. It will, hopefully, not be much of a game, but it will still be fun to watch America's best basketball team play. Here's a cool video for you:

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Poll Results: Every voter agreed that Kobe Bryant will go down in NBA history as a top ten player to ever play, but no one thinks he's good enough to be top 5.

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