Look at All the Beautiful Honeys Here
Hours away from a reprieve from the dog days of basketballess summer, we here at Plissken are stoked to be able to talk about some games that didn't happen 30 years ago. There have been some good articles about Team USA's strategic concerns and roster issues around the internets. Kurt has had some quality work both at FB&G and at Ballhype on the U.S.'s need to focus on defense, and the Painted Area has been all over the topic with a great roundup of Olympic qualifying news and a look at the complexities of Team USA's defensive issues. Sheridan, as usual, has been pretty solid covering the news surrounding the team and the tournament. However, some important plotlines have gone underreported, so I've decided to take it upon myself to take a look at a few to watch.
Luis Scola: Making Spurs fans bitter and Rockets fans stoked
With his in-the-NBA countrymen out of the picture, Scola should have a chance to shine as a leader for Argentina, the Group A-favorites. When you have the greatest power of forward of all time and four recent championships it's probably hard to get too concerned with losing a 27-year-old prospect that's logged no time in the NBA, but if Scola lays waste to Group A you have to imagine some people in San Antonio start to feel a bit worse about handing a quality big man to a close division rival for nothing. Because of the rock-steadiness of Duncan, Houston's gain might be much more interesting than San Antonio's loss in this case. Even though it's being discussed, people probably aren't talking enough about just how much the Rockets improved themselves this offseason. The next couple weeks might help demonstrate that.
Raja Bell: Franchise Player
The U.S. Virgin Islands should provide a fascinating case study for what happens when you hand the keys to a team over to a guy who typically acts as a defensive and 3-point specialist. I'm not sure how this will factor into the role player discussion, but, regardless of that, I'm interested in seeing what Raja will be like as a primary option. The slight chance of a Kobe/Raja altercation on Thursday might pique your interest, or maybe you want to see Barbosa and Bell face-off on Saturday. Whatever the case, you know Raja has some kind of superstar-level flop up his sleeve for the occasion.
Jose Juan Barea: Fast as All Hell
Watching Barea run circles around everyone was one of the highlights of Summer League. I actually think losing Daniel Santiago, their starting center, might not be such a bad thing for Puerto Rico in the end, or at least for the people watching them play--anything that pushes a team towards embracing its identity is alright in my book. The pair of Barea and Arroyo should be as exciting to watch as any non-American duo.
Levon Kendall: Cool as Ice
The Canadian made a lot of noise on the international scene two years ago when he scored 40 in an upset victory over the United States. Of course, that game existed in print more than in any other form, so when college fans watched Pitt the next season, they were in for quite the shock: a white man with a Vanilla Ice haircut who's better at the nitty-gritty things than at scoring. With Nash and Magloire out of the tournament, the Canada will rely on Kendall for a healthy chunk of their scoring, giving him the chance to establish himself as a true international-ball idiot savant with a few huge games. Word to your mother. --TK
Cuarenta Minutos de Infierno
If you want to overachieve, having Nolan Richardson as your coach can't hurt. When run properly, his fast-paced system is probably as able to pull off an upset as any, so if you want the big money bet, Mexico might not be a bad choice. Tonight's match up with Puerto Rico is probably one of the non-U.S. games I'll be most interested in watching, mostly because I want to see a) how well Mexico can put on the pressure and b) how well Puerto Rico's guards respond to it.