Friday, August 29, 2008

And The Team Name Is... Leaking!

The Oklahoma City NBA franchise, formerly known as the Sonics are set to unveil the name, logo and colors next Wednesday. Well, the name Oklahoma City Thunder has been tossed around a lot. I don't love it, don't hate it (hey, it'll still be a bad team).

I would now like to see the management team surprise everyone (like a Republican did today). How about the Oklahoma City Dogs of the Western Conference? I know that the people came to see the Hornets play, but they were a great squad. Will the support be there for a young, developing team? Not to drift away from basketball, but will people have enough money to come out? If so, will they lose volume in extras (drinks, etc.).

This is a chance for me to put on the hat of a basketball economist. I think the buzz will be good, but not great. When you saw the crowd for the Hornets, you could feel the energy they gave to them. I don't think there will be a lot of buzz for a guy in Kevin Durant that only scores because he gets a lot of shots up (sorry KD, you've got to get better). I would say that 75% of the people who went to see the Hornets would see the Sonics. In at least half of the games they play, there will be a star that can attract people to the games. I think they will fit a pretty big bill in the short term for this move.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Team USA Wins Gold!

Team USA has finally redeemed their title as the best basketball nation in the world, beating Spain 118-107. It was a close game through 40 minutes, truly the best international game I've seen so far. Kobe Bryant was kind of the MVP of this game, he had big plays on both ends down the stretch. It seemed like each team really really wanted it, runs and amazing shots were plentiful in this game. Juan Carlos Navarro had a tremendous game, he was great in Jose Calderon's absence.

In the first, Spain had a five point lead at one point. But team USA stayed resilient and would go on and off of a double digit lead. Rudy Fernandez also was vital for Spain. He looks like a fantastic player, great shooter and showed that if Kobe wants to gamble, he'll throw it down on his head.

The real reason they won was the pace of the game. Fastbreak, fastbreak, fastbreak; that's an easy way to describe this game. Chris Paul scored a layup after only two seconds came off the shot clock. If Spain wanted to win, they should have worked on half court execution, something that slows down the USA offensively.

But really Spain can't be dissapointed in their performance. They gave Team USA the biggest run for their money on the biggest stage. Watching this game, I can also see Rudy Fernandez and Ricky Rubio are carrying the torch for Spain. They are going to help them stay strong on the world scale.

Now it's time for these guys to rest up for the NBA season! More on that as we get closer!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Team USA Beat Argentina, Now On The Way To The Gold!

I've been disappointed by some of Team USA's earlier performances, but it sounds like they are good enough to win. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to watch the first two medal-round games (Australia, Agrentina last night Beijing time) due to the early morning starts. I am eagerly awaiting waking up at 2:30 am Eastern to watch the gold medal game (USA vs. Spain). I have to honestly say that I don't think it will be much of a game.

I could be wrong though. Team USA's 37 point win over Spain doesn't really mean anything now. Sure, it helped their confidence in pool play, but, like Team USA was reminded, everyone was 0-0 again and both of these squads are now 2-0. Spain knew that they were going to get past pool play and now maybe they'll pull out new tricks from the bag. Better defense and a shorter rotation should help Spain keep the margin respectable in the first half (I would consider Argentina's 101-81 loss respectable).

Either way, it will be nice to see both of these clubs finish one and two. Spain has gone through a great generation and they should be a top team a little longer (Ricky Rubio and the other new blood can take the torch maybe). While the presumptive result is a pretty comfortable US win, I would still love to see a great down to the wire contest.

So if you can't bare getting up early, forget the Sunday paper and come to Basketball Notes by Alex (don't forget your coffee)!

(Sorry for the bad picture, I'm going get better at editing sometime!)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Team USA Says Goodbye to Germany!

Team USA finished up pool play with a big win over Germany, 106-57. This wasn't really a game worth watching, but I saw a lot of great highlights. This was really no contest, it was 31-12 after the first. The USA had too much fire power for Germany to handle. Germany really is weak offensively, something that doesn't get you past pool play.

Again shooting was a positive for the US. Although not as solid as they were against Spain, Team USA shot 11-26 from beyond the arc. If I'm Coach K, I'm pretty happy with the 5-0 record in pool play. Although they still have a lot to do, they are better record wise than they were in Athens (where they lost their first game to Puerto Rico).

Dirk Nowitzki played what was likely his last game for Germany today. He deserves a lot of credit for all he did for his country. I really respect all of his effort. This is a guy who cried when Germany qualified. He's such a competitor and he deserves a lot for putting it on the line for his country.

Now it's time for the one and done medal round. They will be playing Australia in the first game. This is a team that was very impressive in an exhibition against the US. In this game they will have Andrew Bogut down low, they should be even better. We'll see how team USA responds to a rematch against a team that they played their worst game against. They will come out with lots of intensity, they know the medal is just three games away.

Spain, Lithuania, China, Greece and Argentina are also moving to the medal round. Lithuania has been a surprise, they should beat China, but they shouldn't go any further. I am looking forward to a USA-Argentina game.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

USA Blows Out Spain!

Team USA delivered a big time win against Spain 119-82. They really seemed to be in control the whole game; no wavering in who was in control of the game. If Team USA has an MVP, it is Dwayne Wade. He came into these Olympics with more to prove individually than anyone on this team and he has responded. He had shown quickness that I remember from a couple of years ago in Miami's run to a title.

As a team, this should help with their confidence. I know that Coach K will say this in the locker room though, "Okay, we just beat one of the best teams in this tournament. While we should be confident, we have to make sure we don't become overconfident. Stay poised, keep your composure, remember we haven't won a gold medal yet."

Outside shooting, something that was a concern in the first couple of games, was not one in this game. Team USA made 12 of 25 threes. Tayshaun Prince was solid; as Doug Collins said he's an underrated shooter (especially from the shorter three point line). Prince is certainly a candidate to get more minutes, he can bring shooting (like Redd), but he's a much better defender.

The last game of pool play is against Germany. They won't be moving on past group play, they have been a disappointment. The great thing about this game is the front line will be tested. Chris Kaman and Dirk Nowitzki are two NBA guys that will make it challenging for Howard, Boozer and Bosh.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Play of the game: Wade to Kobe

Here's the best play from today's USA vs. Greece game:



Wade to Kobe, can you imagine that combo? Wade is definitely in full force and I expect more highlights from him and others.

Can you think of a crazy alley oop combination? Let's hear it in the comments!

Team USA beats Greece!

Team USA beat up on Greece 92-69, finally taking full control of a big game. In the opening minutes of this game Team USA looked terrible. JKidd picked up three very quick fouls (I think at the 8:35 mark in the first quarter) and the game was slow and it was Greece's game. That's why the game really took a turn in the second quarter. Team USA stopped playing Greece's game and started playing their game. Steals and creating offense from their defense is what makes them unstoppable.

Greece never really had it going, they only had a strong start. The front line wasn't able to intimidate the US and the outside shots weren't falling (4-18 from beyond the arc). If they are able to squeeze out of Group B, they'll have to dramatically slow the game down and stop turning the ball over.

Kobe Bryant really made inroads in this game, he shot a little better and was great inside and out. Of course, the player of the game was Dwayne Wade, he was spectacular in this one. Turnover, outlet pass, dunk; that was the formula for DWade's attack. Throwing all of those alley oops helped Wade put up an all around stat line (17 points, 5 assists, and 3 boards). Something that was also really on display today was LeBron's blocking ability. He swatted three shots and each and every block seemed better than the other. Having the luxury at the small forward spot (although he sometimes slides to the power forward) is key if team USA is going to win the gold.

Next game is against Spain, they're coming with a 3-0 record. This will be another huge game, both teams still have something to prove and it's time for one of these squads to be 3-1. I am predicting another US win, but I guarantee it'll be closer than this game was.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Iggy gets a lot of Milli's!

A million here, a million there, that's the song Andre Iguodala put on repeat; getting a six year, $80 million dollar deal with the Sixers. Of course, this is too much money for Iggy, but what were the Sixers to do, break up their young core because they want to be thrifty? Look, they have Brand, Louis Williams, and Iguodala, that's a great core.

Anyone who says well Josh Smith didn't even get $60 million needs to be quiet. The Sixers are doing business the way you have to do business. When you have a top notch employee that wants a certain amount of money, you just might have to pay top dollar. The Hawks need to learn for the Sixers; then maybe they could have kept Josh Childress and not pissed off Josh Smith. Philly understands that if you pay guys what they'd like to be paid, maybe they'll go into the season happy and ready to win. Ed Stefanski knows that to win, you might have to spend money (did you know that, Grizzlies?).

If I were to estimate what he's worth, it's definitely not a lot higher than what he got. In other words, I wouldn't classify this as a Rashard Lewis overpaying, but a slight overpaying. I'm sure Iggy and his agent had a nice night after hearing about the pay day.

He might've also listened to this:
A Milli - Lil Wayne

I don't know about you, but I've got an early mention for Ed Stefanski as executive of the year. Stealing Elton Brand and keeping this young team together was the ultimate goal for this summer. He did that and, although some may not think this is a big deal, but he signed what could be a key role player in Kareem Rush. He can shoot and that's exactly what they need coming off the bench.

Last year, they won 40 games. This year, I'd put my sights on slightly surpassing, or meeting the Magic's record (52 wins last season). They will be a definite force in the East.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Team USA Getting Ready For the Big Games!

Now that Team USA beat Angola (97-76), it's time for them to prepare for some big games. Next up is Greece, a team with no players I am familiar with. They aren't favorites to medal, but International "Guru" Fran Fraschilla thinks that they are the best "team" in this tournament. Looking at their roster (scroll down from the link to see it), I see that six of the guys on this team will be teammates of Josh Childress with the Greek Club Olympiacos (just a cool way to get off topic).

The talk of the town (otherwise known as ESPN's analysts) has been that team USA can't shoot from the outside. Granted, Kobe may be in a shooting slump, but hey, he's a competitor and he'll find ways to be effective. I don't take much of anything from these first two games; this just showed us that the USA can beat the bad teams.

Team USA has to make a statement now (Thursday's game is their first real taste of a great squad). The perfect game for the USA would be a 30 point convincing victory. You know they're going to be hungry; this squad last beat them in semifinals of the World Championships.

Here my quick ESPN-like promo: Don't miss as the Redeem Team battle their way through pool play as they face Greece Thursday morning at 8 am Eastern. Can Kobe break his shooting slump? Does team USA have a good enough inside presence? Find out Thursday!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Team USA Gongs China!

Team USA beat China 101-70 in the opening of their Olympic tour. China stayed tough for most of the first half, I was surprised by how well they played. Yao looked okay, especially for only being 60-70%. The key was really China just wearing down, the three point shot didn't fall near as much in the second half.

Team USA really has to work on: defending and making the three point shot. China shot 10-27 from three and while that is only 37%, it's something that helped China stay close in the first half. Team USA shot about 29% from three, Kobe the only starter that made a three. They can't just rely on Michael Redd, everyone has to take advantage of the short three point line. Dwight Howard's free throw shooting. I've noticed this in his play with Orlando, he's not a great shooter at all (3-5 in this game). I can see teams employing a "Hack-a-Howard" strategy in the medal round, something that should really concern Coach K. If teams force Howard off the floor, then depth at the frontline becomes a factor (a factor that team USA doesn't have an advantage in). If they get those two things down, they should fly through most of the preliminary round.

Next for team USA is Angola (Monday US time, Tuesday in Beijing). I saw a bit of Angola against Germany and they like to run the ball. Just like China, they shot three ball well. This will be a test and they should pass easily.

Photo by: Garrett Ellwood

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Russia easily beats Iran 71-49!

In the first game of Men's Olympic basketball, Russia beat Iran 71-49. Granted, this was not the most star studded game in the world (Andrey Kirilenko was the biggest star), it still had its moments.

Russia was dominant in the first half (they lead 38-22), but they seemed to lose their edge in the third. Each team was limited offensively, but the Russian offense was very weak in the third. Iran may have only had five in the first, but I expect more out of Russia. The best part about Russia's play today was their defense (in the first half). They made Iran take tough shots deep in the shot clock, forced shot clock violations and did their best to convert 22 Iranian turnovers into points.

A new addition to the Russian offensive attack is the alley oop. AK7 (Andrey Kilrilenko, using his Olympics number) will run off a couple of back screens and look for a ball to throw down. It wasn't terribly successful, but it's a good addition to their attack.

Also, NBA player Viktor Khryapa played for Russia tonight (he missed the friendly against the USA). He can help Russia in the medal round, his NBA experience could help against the US. I don't see Iran advancing, they are the epitome of why Group A is weak.

Tomorrow morning (US time) team USA kicks off their Olympic tour against China (10:15 am Eastern, on NBC). This is a big game, they want to start this trip to the gold off right. I have my money on the US, but it'll definitely be one to watch.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Grizzlies Spendin Money?

According to RealGM, the Grizzlies have signed Josh Smith to a $58 million dollar offer sheet. Are you kidding me? They have money to spend and they wait and wait and now try to get Josh Smith? I would have tried Brand, or someone that isn't a restricted free agent.

The Hawks have seven days to match and I don't know how many years the deal would last, but they probably will match. If they don't, I guess the Grizz actually improve this summer. A core nucleus of OJ Mayo, Rudy Gay and Josh Smith doesn't sound bad right? We'll see what happens in next week!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Earl Boykins becomes a rich Italian!

Earl Boykins, a 5'5" point guard is heading to Virtus Bologna for $3.5 million. Here's a statement that was translated from the club:
We hope that the skills of this Earl Boykins, how you say, will help our team. We think that the lack of doping tests over here will help us dramatically increase his height (although only in meters, not inches). If we are lucky, he should become taller than Andrea Bargnani (who we no longer consider an Italian, more like a disappointment)!
I don't know why this team would pay him so much. Sure, he can shoot and run the ball, but why not try picking another NBA player? This should make Boykins look a lot better though, just because the Euro-league is better than college, it's not better than the NBA. I wish the best for Boykins, and Virtus Bologna (who I'm sure has people that speak perfect English).

My Souped-up Olympic preview!

With the Olympics just one day away, it's time to preview some Olympic basketball! We're getting a steroid shot with some help from Kellex, Jarrad Todd and Anthony!

Me: Do you have team USA as your favorite, and which team has the best chance of knocking them off?

Kellex: For sure Team USA is my favorite! If I had a team to knock them off, it would probably be Spain at this point. So much young talent there and they are the reigning Euro champs or something aren't they?

Anthony: On paper, they are the favorites. I think it's pretty obvious - they have an NBA All-Star lineup. Sentimentally, they are my favorites since Kobe is playing for them. I am a huge Laker fan first and foremost. (Later on, Anthony talks about how to defeat them)

Jarrad:
I believe the US will ultimately take home the gold, followed by Spain and Argentina. I do find it hard to believe that the US only selected one center (Dwight Howard) for their roster. Particularly so when you consider the big men competing in the tournament, i.e. as mentioned the Aussie trio, Spain's Gasol brothers, China's Yao & Yi etc. This is a huge risk to take because if Howard suffers an injury, I think they can kiss their gold medal chances goodbye.

My answer: Yes, they're my favorite to win the gold. I agree with Kellex, Spain has got the Gasol's, Calderon, that young gun Ricky Rubio and plenty of other great players.

Me: How can teams beat Team USA?

Anthony:


The Americans have speed and athleticism. They overwhelm opponents by their running game. The key here is to slow down the game by:

  1. Using the shot clock - this will hopefully slow the tempo down and prevent explosive finishes by the Americans. (Kind of like what Russia did)
  2. Limiting outside shooting to prevent long rebounds. Long rebounds, of course, leads to fastbreaks.
1. The Americans have limited outside shooting capability. The only pure shooter is Redd and the next best shooter is Kobe (and Kobe is not a pure shooter). Perhaps, Deron is the 3rd shooter in this team. If the opponents pack it in and force the Americans to shoot from long range, they have a shot (Again, kind of like Russia). It seems the zone is the only option for opposing teams - it forces the Americans to shoot from the outside . They can man in the last quarter or the last few minutes if the score is close.

2. The strange thing is Coach K has given Redd limited minutes in their exhibition games. If anything, Redd should be given more minutes than Melo but that's only my opinion. Redd has to be given significant minutes to boost his confidence. When the real tournament in the Olympic happens, I feel that the competition will play "dirty" inside so Redd's shooting will come in handy to keep the defense honest.

3. The Americans have the mental edge. If the opponent comes in thinking the Americans will beat them then they have already been beat. The Australians showed the Americans some "attitude" (jawing with Wade) and the other teams may want to emulate that. They have to tread the line though as you don't want to give the proud Americans a reason to kick your ass. Don't back down from their taunts but don't initiate either.

My answer: So far, you take what you can from the Russia and Australia exhibition's. Slow the game down, use different defenses to rattle their offense (like the match up zone) and force them into the NBA-style isolation offense (it seemed to be a reason the USA started slow against Australia).

Me: What does the team have to work on the most?

Anthony:


The team has to work on their:
  1. Outside Shooting - see item 2 above on "how to defeat them".
  2. Passing - with this all-start cast, it's very easy to slack on offense and go 1 on 1. All of the five players on the floor (on any given time) can score so, if possible, they should all be shooting when there is no man harassing them. But then again, these players are so used to defenders all over them that shooting without a defender might not work for them. We all know Coach K has them practicing that - shooting without a defender, how funny.
My answer:

They have to work on adjusting to all kinds of defense. They seem to really get rattled when they see something new.

I would also like to see good, genuine ball movement. Sometimes we see too much passing, sometimes we see too little passing. They've got to embrace the international game and move the ball (kind of like the Kings did under Rick Adelman).

Just making sure the little things are in your favor. Get the loose balls, get the third and fourth opportunity to score, just hustle.

Me: Since you're in Australia Jarrad, how will the Aussies do?

Jarrad:
In terms of how I think the Aussies will fare, realistically I don't think they're good enough to be in medal contention, however I do expect them finish somewhere between 4th and 6th. The Aussies strength will be their frontcourt, with center's Andrew Bogut (Bucks), David Anderson (CSKA Moscow - rights held by Hawks) and Chris Anstey (formerly with the Mavs and Bulls). It should be fun watching Patrick Mills (St Mary's) in the back-up point guard spot, to gauge his NBA potential. From his performance against the US in the Exhibition game on Tuesday, so far he looks the goods.

I really have to thank Kellex, Jarrad Todd and Anthony for their insight. So flex your hoops knowledge by marking the calendar for all these games!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Team USA Squeezes by the Aussies!

Team USA beat Australia in a surprisingly close 87-76 exhibition game. Australia was really in it for all four quarters and they did it all without top NBA draft pick Andrew Bogut (ankle injury). I was impressed by young guard Patrick Mills, he's a small, speedy guy who p could make a lot of noise.

The Australian offense seemed to be better than any other team they faced. With Bogut playing, this team could have had it in single digits. The first couple of quarters were the worst for the US, but in the second, LeBron James went on an onslaught and gave the USA a nice cushion. It seemed that the Aussies always had another run in them.

Based on this game I would say that they have a lot to work on. Constant intensity on both ends is not there, half court execution is not there and I want to see a real conserted effort for 40 minutes. The first game for the US is on Sunday against China. I hope they come out and prove that they are better than the way they played today.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Team USA set to take on the Aussie's!

Team USA will take on Andrew Bogut and the Aussie's on Tuesday at 8 a.m. Eastern time on ESPN2. If you've heard of Shawn Redhage you're either Australian, Fran Fraschilla, or really up on foreign basketball (sorry, Aussies, you're great!).

Anyway, I think team USA needs to blow out the Australian's like they did the Canadian's. The one thing that is becoming a growing concern is the way team USA is getting hurt inside. This Australian team has size. Don't get me wrong, I don't know much about this team, but they have seven players that are over 6'8". They may not be that skilled (except for Bogut), but you never know without an adequate scouting report.

Everyone is also talking about the lack of playing time for JKidd. I don't see a controversey brewing. These guys made three year commitiments, when you're old like JKidd is, you need to take it easy until it counts. You don't play all the cards when there are no chips on the table. In this game of poker, team USA has plenty of chips at point guard (Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, and Deron Williams).

Keeping up the ESPN promo, don't forget about back-to-back Road to Redemption episodes, the last bit of the series (tommorow starting at 7 pm Eastern, ESPN2). I have liked this series so far; I am looking for another great, heart warming performance from ESPN's production crew.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Dr. J get his Ph.D in advertising!

Dr. J decided to give up on the medical field and is now into being in Dr. Pepper commercials.

Look:


I guess Dunk Medical is going to miss him. Now he's off to artificially enhance the "23 flavors" of this great soda (which in no way affects your weight, according to the esteemed doctor).

Seriously, it's a cool ad and I hope we can see more like it!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Team USA now 3-0!

Team USA beat Lithuania 120-84 to improve to 3-0 in exhibition games. When you consider the level of competition, this was the best performance from this squad. What I liked the most was the way they came out defensively. Kobe really set the tone on both ends. They didn't allow Jasikevicius (their only good ball handler) to go to his right; they almost always forced him to his left. In the first half I also saw really good pick and roll defense.

I wish they'd been consistent. The first quarter was the most lop sided (31-15), the second, the closest (25-24). Even not looking at the numbers, I think the defense as a whole was at ease in the second half. They had moments (especially early in the third) where it looked like the game was going to get pretty close. I felt that the flow to Lithuania's game was better in the third quarter.

I also liked that everyone got a chance to score for the USA. While Jason Kidd may not be pushed that hard, it's important that he's bringing some offense of his own. Also, while Prince and Boozer may not see minutes when this thing gets serious, they need to be prepared in case of injury.

The play of the game has to be the windmill dunk off of an alley-oop from Chris Paul by Dwayne Wade.

Here it is:



Next, the USA will face Russia on Sunday at 3am Eastern on ESPN2. I, of course, am not going to get up to watch that one (hey, it's just an exhibition, right?). I will watch in human hours and talk about it here.

Photo by: Andrew D. Bernstein

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