Win-or-walk for Team USA, Spain advances, and Carmelo and Kobe playing together in L.A.?

08.20.08 9 years ago 32 Comments
LeBronLeBron (photo. Mannion)

Not that it will change their level of focus — which has been at a level close to something you’d see in the NBA playoffs — but Team USA moves into the one-and-done phase of the Olympics today with the beginning of the medal round. If they beat Australia this morning (8 a.m. EST), the U.S. faces the winner of Argentina/Greece, and if they get past that opponent, will face either Spain, Lithuania or China for the biggest prize in the sport. There exists a not-so-crazy scenario where China could get to the big game. Their quarterfinal opponent, Lithuania, looked real soft against Australia the last time we saw them, and China was destroying potential semifinal opponent Spain for 30 minutes last week before a fourth-quarter/overtime collapse … First things first, though: The Aussies gave Team USA a battle in an exhibition game not too long ago, and since then have added a healthy Andrew Bogut to the mix along with college sophomore sensation Patty Mills and grizzled vet PG C.J. Bruton. Two immediate keys in this one will be LeBron and Carmelo. The Boomers aren’t as strong at the 3-4 position, so if ‘Bron and ‘Melo get off to a fast start, the U.S. could build a lead similar to how they did against Germany and keep Australia in comeback mode the rest of the way. We’re going to keep a running live blog of the Australia/USA game as it happens, so stay on and post your observations along with our constantly-updating analysis … ‘Melo has already said he’s thinking of coming back for the 2012 Olympics in London. “I’ll be 27 years old,” he told the Rocky Mountain News. “Depending on what the process is, I am open to 2012. We shall see what the process is.” That brings up a good question: What is the process going to be? Is there going to be another three-year program set in place leading to 2012, or will a gold medal in Beijing bring back that cockiness that American can slap together a roster of All-Stars like you would a pickup squad and go beat the crap out of everyone again? … Yesterday on we asked if a team of U.S. college players could win a medal at these Olympics, and one of our writers put together his hypothetical college version of Team USA, including Michael Beasley, Derrick Rose, Mario Chalmers and Anthony Randolph … In that same ‘Melo article, Kobe was quoted, “He’s probably my favorite person on the team. He’s funny as hell. That’s my guy. That’s my dude. He’s just funny, and he and I, we get along extremely well.” Start the ‘Melo-to-L.A. trade rumors next time things start getting rough with the Nuggets. Wonder if Lamar Odom likes Denver … Spain beat Croatia, 72-59, behind Pau Gasol‘s 20 points and 11 boards. Interesting development as Ricky Rubio got the start over Jose Calderon. It actually looked like Calderon was walking out onto the court for the tip-off when he got called back and replaced by Rubio. Is the vet Calderon insulted by not only a move like that, but how it was executed if in fact he didn’t know beforehand? … China/Lithuania was underway at the time we posted this edition of Smack. Maybe the funniest thing we’ve heard all Olympics long is Snapper Jones trying to pronounce the names of the Lithuanian players … A debate broke out on the site yesterday over whether the original Dream Team would beat the Redeem Team. That, of course, turned into another Kobe versus Jordan thing … Iran’s Hamed Ehadadi told reporters he will “undoubtedly” sign with the Grizzlies sooner rather than later. Can’t you see a 2013 Seattle SuperGrizzlies starting lineup of Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, Tristan Spurlock (since Rudy Gay will have left for the Wizards in free agency by then), Marc Gasol and Hamed Ehadadi? That team might win 10 games, maybe 12 if they’re lucky … Staying in the Northwest, the Blazers are reportedly set to go with Steve Blake as their opening night starter at point guard. If you were Nate McMillan, would you be setting the table to eventually move Brandon Roy to PG and have Rudy Fernandez at the two, or leave B-Roy at SG, bring Rudy off the bench, and transition Jerryd Bayless to the starting PG spot? … After putting together perhaps the best offseason of any team in the League, the Sixers added another piece yesterday by signing Theo Ratliff. They had to do something following Jason Smith‘s ACL injury, and Ratliff, 35, can still play a little. Maybe he can be the teacher who gets things to finally click for The Dalembeast … The Sixers’ big men had better get their ship in order, because apparently Jermaine O’Neal is coming for their heads in the Atlantic Division. “You hear people say that you slowed down, that you don’t have it anymore — but you know that you still have it,” J.O. said in a recent interview. “All the naysayers who are saying that I lost a step, they’ll get a full dosage of me next year.” Do you think Jermaine can return to All-Star form? He says he’s basically been playing on one leg for the last couple of years, and now he’s back at full strength. Is he going to be anything more than a nice complimentary piece to Chris Bosh in Toronto, or is J.O. going to be a certified beast again? … Well, the Suns are finished. Gordan Giricek has signed with Fenerbahce (Turkey), whose past alumni includes Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Tyson Wheeler and Conrad “McNasty” McRae … We’re out like Croatia …

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