I really didn’t think I’d get into the FIBA championship this year, but surprisingly I’ve caught at least a little bit of each game. Either when they decided televise them 12 hours after they happened on NBATV, or on ESPN3 when I’m at work, and not so busy. As much as I was unimpressed with the names on the squad we put together, I was very impressed with how well they’ve come together over the past month. If you watched their first game and last game, you’d see a dramatic improvement. They finally looked comfortable together against Angola, and sent them back to their country. I was surprised to find that the U.S. was not the favorite to win the title. I guess not winning the tourney since 1994 is a good reason for them to be ranked lower, but still, shouldn’t the country that invented the game be the favorite even with the rules being much different than the NBA? I’d think so, and even with the B squad they should beat down the competition.
I’m sure some of my interest was piqued with Steph Curry being on the team. I don’t want him to get hurt, which I’m sure every Warriors fan echoes, but then again at least if he did get hurt, he would be playing basketball opposed to riding a scooter. One really cool thing I’ve seen from Curry so far is that he’s playing some solid defense, something the Warriors and him aren’t really known for. I’m not sure if it’s because the players he’s defending aren’t as good as NBA players or if he really IS playing that much better defense under Coach K. Either way it’s been a nice surprise, and I’m still holding out hope that he can make a few friends there and try to get them to come to the bay area.
Not surprisingly, Durant has been the go to guy. I didn’t think I could like him more than I already do, but his leadership abilities at 21 years young are undeniable. He’s beginning to be one of those guys that simply doesn’t have an off night. It’s getting a lot harder to not like the Zombie Sonics. The biggest surprises to me have been the two Timberwolves, Rudy Gay and Kevin Love. I guess I never really watched them play very much, so seeing them play this well has been somewhat of a shock to me. I thought Gay was a lot more one dimensional (there to chuck up shots), but he might actually be worth all that money he got this off season, bwhahaha, couldn’t finish that thought with out laughing. Honestly though, if you’re Minnesota you probably have to ridiculously overpay to keep a guy there. Kevin Love has been Mr. Everything. He does exactly what you need a big man to do without designing touches for him. I guess there’s a lot of upside with him since the T-Wolves sent Al Jefferson packing, and I’m starting to believe they might have made the right move for once… A cool thing I read about Odom on his reasoning for being on the US National team was that he wanted to own two championships in one year, something Kobe has never done!
A guy that’s disappointed me so far is Danny Granger. I’ve talked this kid up quite a bit over the last couple of years, but haven’t really seen much out of him in the FIBA action I’ve watched so far. Maybe putting him in as the power forward at times is a big reason he’s struggled being outsized, but then on the offensive end, you’d think he’d be able to take advantage of that. That hasn’t been the case, which is why he is my disappointment so far for the U.S.
Their game against a weak Angola team yesterday was an important win, and a statement that this team isn’t a pushover that it looked like at the beginning. Chauncey even said that they were like a team coasting after they already knew they made the playoffs. Yesterday they looked like a team that was ready, and in playoff form. Now they are three wins away from the goal they set out for themselves, and they do have an easy bracket.
I always found the FIBA format weird. I mean, it makes sense, but I’m not sure why they keep so many teams around. If you win your first game, and get into the elite 8, you are guaranteed to play three more games even if you lose!?! What’s even stranger is that, they have a game for the 5th, and the 7th place winner. It’s not a fantasy league vying for draft picks, so why does FIBA award 8 places? Giving out a gold, silver, bronze, steel, wood, paper mache, quartz, and since it’s in Istanbul they hand out baklava to the 8th place team. The baklava medal is really just something for that last place team to snack on while the other teams receive their medals. C’mon FIBA, how can you really recognize anything outside of third!?! Get rid of those extra meaningless games!