Team USA Spanks The Spaniards; The Magic Are Still A Mess

By: 07.25.12
Carmelo Anthony

Anybody care to explain why no other Olympian or group of Olympians is subject to as much scrutiny as the U.S. men’s basketball team? Whether Michael Phelps wins by a hundredth of a second or blows his competition out of the water, all that really matters is that he wins. If Usain Bolt wins by two strides or by the taco meat on his chest, a win’s still a win. Just take a minute and watch sports like gymnastics and diving this year; the U.S. can win bronze or silver and it’s still treated like an amazing accomplishment rather than a huge failure. But when it comes to USA Basketball, even the games that don’t count are picked apart and over-analyzed for potential red flags and signs of trouble. Maybe it’s because the media and public are so accustomed to constantly criticizing NBA players during the season that they can’t stop themselves when Kobe and Chris Paul and the guys swap their NBA uniforms for the Team USA gear … And that’s what made yesterday’s 100-78 romp over gold medal contender Spain a bit different than usual — the noticeable decrease in the nit-picking department. In the last exhibition game for Team USA before the London Games, Carmelo Anthony dropped 27 points off the bench, LeBron scored 25 to go with seven dimes, and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook sparked the decisive run in the third quarter that put Pau Gasol (19 pts) and his group to bed for good … If you took Spain’s starting lineup from yesterday — Jose Calderon, J.C. Navarro, Rudy Fernandez, Serge Ibaka and Pau Gasol — and gave them an average NBA-caliber bench and a decent coach, how many games would they win in an 82-game season? Are they a playoff team? …

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Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard (photo. adidas)

You’d have to go into NBA 2K12 Association mode to replicate the way the Rockets are building a team from scratch. It seems Houston has gotten rid of their whole team — five of their top six scorers from last season are gone — and is starting over with Jeremy Lin, three rookies, and a prayer that they can get Dwight Howard away from Orlando. (Assuming any deal for Dwight includes Kevin Martin.) On Tuesday the Rockets added another piece, acquiring Omer Asik after the Bulls decided not to match Houston’s offer sheet. Chicago didn’t seem too worried: Team exec Gar Foreman said Omer did a “nice job” for the team, but they had to let him go if they want to keep getting “high level talent.” In other words, Omer, we already promised your locker to somebody else … Would Andrei Kirilenko be considered high level talent? The former NBA All-Star and All-Defensive first teamer is coming back to the league from Russia, and the Timberwolves are an early favorite to land him. Ricky Rubio, Brandon Roy, AK-47, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic — that looks like playoff starting five right there, not to mention the lightest-skinned starting five in the league … Allow us to nominate the Magic for next season’s subject of The Association on NBA TV. Of course there’s the Dwight Howard drama if he’s still around, Chris Duhon laying waste to the central Florida nightclub scene, underdog stories like Kyle O’Quinn trying to make an NBA roster, Q-Rich trying to stay relevant on an NBA roster, and Big Baby Davis just being Big Baby Davis. Just the confessional/interview segments with Hedo Turkoglu would make the show worth watching. And now we might have Jacque Vaughn going through his first year as an NBA head coach with a huge chip on his shoulder. Vaughn is believed to be the frontrunner for the Orlando job, and already he’s got armchair critics putting him on the hot seat. Shaq went on Twitter and said “Jock Vaugh” would be a bad hire over Mike Malone and his boy Brian Shaw … Interchangeable role player update: Ronnie Brewer is headed to the Knicks on a one-year deal, Randy Foye is headed to Utah on a one-year deal, and Mickael Pietrus‘ agent says there’s no way his client is going to sign for the NBA veteran minimum when he has offers three times as big overseas … Explaining why the Warriors traded Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut, coach Mark Jackson said Golden State couldn’t turn down the chance to get a player they believe is one of the five best centers in the NBA. Which sounds good and everything, but if that top-five center hasn’t been able to stay healthy, and it’s been proven that you don’t need a top-five center to contend for a title anymore, and in fact you’re probably better off with a top-five shooting guard (like Monta), the deal doesn’t sound as good. And let’s be real: The sexual harassment lawsuit by the former Warriors employee definitely had something to do with the team ultimately dumping Monta. Between that and what we learned about Mark Jackson’s phone activity, the Warriors were about to become Glenn Quagmire‘s favorite team … According to Wizards gunner Jordan Crawford, the Brooklyn Nets have the league’s best backcourt. “Vicious. The only word to describe it,” Crawford told a Washington Post reporter. “Deron is like a 6-2 Joe Johnson.” … Hard times have descended on Stromile Swift. One of our favorite one-dimensional players of all time — seriously, the ONLY thing he could do was dunk, but he was so nasty with it — Stro has been sentenced to six months in jail and 18 months’ probation on charges of stalking a woman. Here’s the deal: When you’re in that 6-9 to 6-10 range, you can’t go around committing crimes that require not being seen. Everybody can see your tall ass … We’re out like Shaq being a GM …

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