U.S. Puts Argentina On Ice; Dwight Howard Is Officially A Laker

By: 08.10.12
Team USA

Team USA (photo. Nike)

In what’s becoming old hat this Olympic men’s basketball tournament, Kobe became the sixth U.S. player with double-digit scoring in a single quarter when he had 13 — halfway through the first on Friday. The U.S., and really Kobe, was rolling like a truck going downhill at the start of the semifinal game against Argentina. The finish was 109-83 Team USA and the destination is now the gold medal match. It looked like a sure thing right from the start. Bean Bryant had a bounce in his step (gosh, we can’t figure why) unlike any other stretch we’ve seen so far in this tournament. His 10 points were more than half of the 18 points the U.S. dropped in just the first four minutes to go up 14. When Kevin Durant jumped a passing lane on Luis Scola during that stretch to go up 15-4, you could see a fan standing up in the background and celebrating by the time KD was only at halfcourt. Argentina, led by an out-for-blood Andres Nocioni, got back to within five at the end of the first quarter because the half-dozen threes the U.S. attempted once it got up big didn’t fall. Put those away, and this thing is done after one quarter. … Just when you thought the first half was going to end with a relatively comfortable 10-point lead, Manu Ginobili hit a three to beat the buzzer from the right corner. It wasn’t long after the 35-year-old took an elbow to the ribs from Carmelo on the block, which led Doug Collins to gush about Manu’s toughness and us to agree. If there was a guy who could play on this team in 2016, it’s Manu. In fact, to get ahead of ourselves a little, he was asked after the game whether he’d be retiring from international play, but he didn’t rule out playing in the 2014 Worlds. Could Argentina’s golden generation of players keep it going? … Friday they couldn’t keep it going in the second half. The Americans should thank the Argentinians for bringing about this whole revamped system of U.S. hoops after the 2002 upset in Indianapolis, but Friday was a perfect reminder of how fast the U.S. has roared back. The pace in the first half, which would have kept the U.S. around 90 points, sped up considerably and led to 18 threes overall for the Yanks. Carmelo Anthony has been a sniper this summer and it continued when his four triples in the fourth turned a game already well into double digits into a blowout. Anthony, as a trailer, got his last two feeds from a player who’d run ahead, effectively set a screen, then scooped an assist behind them to ‘Melo. The second was from 30 feet. It was a gold-medal worthy dagger. And we barely even mentioned another sublime performance from LeBron James, with 18 points, seven rebounds and seven dimes. Get this: He now is two points behind MJ for most Olympic points in U.S. history. … The U.S. takes on Spain in the gold medal final tomorrow morning (10 a.m. ET), a repeat of 2008. The Spaniards woke up from their malaise all tournament to stick it to the Russians after being down 13 early. Pau Gasol had 16 points and 12 boards, looking like a guy playing with a weight taken off his shoulder. After the game he spoke with Craig Sager about being “truly excited to get back to work.” Any run at a title should make any Laker feel that way, but what’s most important isn’t the chemistry of the new guy mixing with the group but that between Gasol and Kobe. Kobe has been gratuitous with his critiques of Gasol in the past to try to inspire him. Maybe Gasol will now see the trade of Bynum, and not him, as a “They like me! They really like me!” sign to jumpstart his confidence. … What a day for Andre Iguodala. Traded at the end of the day London time on Thursday, he suited up for Team USA a new Nugget. We loved his response to a question from Craig Sager before the game, though: “USA is the only team that concerns me.”  
Read on to hear about Dwight Howard’s Laker debut …

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So you might have heard about this Laker-Philly-Denver-Orlando trade? Today was the end. In L.A., it marked a day of high, high expectations for Dwight Howard, introduced as the newest Laker. One of the most poignant things he said was also the last: “Thank you guys for putting up with me. It’s going to be better.” Uh huh. He called L.A. his new home and what with him being out there the last four months recuperating his back, maybe now it just feels more real. He kept flashing the yellow Lakers jersey, not talking about extension chatter, saying he was thrilled to be there and even did an impression of Pau Gasol. GM Mitch Kupchak said he didn’t think it was going to happen until two days ago, when the Magic called him. … We bet if you had said any combination of “Laker,” “Kupchak,” “Dwight” or “Orlando” today in the Houston Rockets’ offices today you probably were fired on the spot. … Do you agree with our takes about who the biggest winners and losers were from the Dwight Howard trade? We like how this affects Kobe and Steve Nash, while Miami’s Big Three is seeing its reign already challenged. … Kyrie Irving has one of the nastiest crossovers in the world but don’t expect him to make the crossover to music anytime soon. He was a good sport when he sang along with a track from Grease on a Cleveland radio show. He shouldn’t get worked up about his performance there or his worries he could miss the 2016 Games with an age limit. It won’t happen by then, SI reported yesterday, and as Marc Stein wrote, everyone at Team USA loves Irving. … We’re out like Manu.

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