Team USA put on some smooth retro Dream Team ’92 era unis for its showdown with FIBA No. 3-ranked Argentina on Sunday in Barcelona, unis so fresh that afterward Carmelo Anthony was telling reporters the team was posing for lots of photos in the locker room in pre-game. You have to wonder if a little mystique for Magic, Michael and Larry snuck into the first 10 minutes of the game because the red, white and blue shot out in front like the original Dream Team to a 19-3 lead. They hit their first five threes. The U.S. went on to win 86-80 in its second-to-last exhibition before London. Kobe was dunking and hitting threes, Kevin Durant (game-high 27 points) was hitting a couple treys, and it looked like the Argentinian players who had taken that country to incredible international success since 2000 looked as dated as a Ja Rule cut. However, a suit may make the man, but a uniform won’t make a team roll over and die, not anymore anyway. Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino and the irrepressible Manu Ginobili (team high 23 points) will take any off-balance shot you give them the space for, and they’ll sure as anything nickel-and-dime you. They came back on the U.S. — partially upset at a horrid start after a 20-point loss to Spain? — and cut it to seven at half. … Steve Smith must’ve called them “scrappy” a dozen times on the broadcast. If that’s usually associated with a backhanded compliment to a 14-, 15- or 16-seed in the NCAA Tournament, it’s a double compliment for Argentina. These dudes have been good for a long time, plus they’ll get under your skin. Andres Nocioni and Scola had some words and shoves for Kevin Durant and LeBron James after a (kind-of) unsportsmanlike foul by Paul. When Delfino dropped a step-back triple on the next possession, the gym in Barcelona went nuts … Russell Westbrook is the guy who would be a perfect international player, just not on the U.S. squad. Is it possible to be less effective when surrounded by better teammates than you’ve ever had? He’s lost the edge of being unpredictable that is both maddening and surprising from his NBA schedule and become more of a predictable penetrate-dish distributor everyone has wanted him to be. Funny then, that he could help the team more by doing what we all are guilty of asking him to stop. We do think he will still be a headache for opposing teams when he and Chris Paul are in the game at the same time and Russ can run the wing and create for Durant, like he did a couple times Sunday. … Paul was Mr. Big Shot once Chauncey Billups got injured for the Clippers last season, doing everything late for them. He hit a big three from the top of the arc to secure the win for the U.S. And what can you say about KD’s three to get it to 81-74 with 2:30 to play that he got knocked down on by Scola? Big-time. … Whenever the U.S. plays with a national team against Argentina, do you get the feeling it’s the “Jordan/Pippen vs. Kukoc” moment? Those dudes were testing an NBA untested cat, but it seems like these guys get to use the moment to gang up and take out all the frustration Manu causes on them during the regular season. … Much respect to Nike for the classy Chuck Daly memorial patch on Sunday’s unis. A nice homage. … Bottom line, we can’t wait for Aug. 6, when these two meet again. And hey, Tuesday’s Spain vs. U.S. game should be fun too, even if neither team will show their cards all the way. … Hit the jump to read about the latest drama in Orlando.
The Magic might finally be hiring a coach, and it could be San Antonio assistant Jacque Vaughn, the former Kansas stud who was a journeyman guard in the League. It’s down to three with him, Phoenix’s Lindsey Hunter and Philly’s Michael Curry also finalists. If you’re the Magic, do you get Dwight Howard‘s take on the whole process as a way to show him you still want him engaged in the hire, or do you move on without him and send him the signal that look, we don’t care about what you want anymore? Even though Howard has done basically everything but spit on the entrance gate to Orlando’s Disneyworld to show the city he wants out, we could still see him being upset if the Magic choose to not value his input. … The final game of Summer League in Las Vegas ended with the T-Wolves taking on the Grizzlies, and we’re sad to see it go. Always fun to be able to see six games a day on NBA TV or in person on the Vegas courts and get a preview of who’s coming up next. Memphis’ Josh Selby and Portland’s Damian Lillard were your co-MVPs of the session. … Other front-office news of the day was that ex-Blazer assistant GM Tom Penn is the leading candidate for the Sixers’ GM job, ESPN reported. Penn is a wizard with cap numbers and can work the magic whiteboard on TV like few analysts. Was one of the interview questions, “What do you think of Philly’s moves this summer?” If so, we hope he was diplomatic about the, um, questionable decisions by Philly brass. … We’re out like Summer League.
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