By: Nick Gibson and Sam Meyerkopf / @euro_adventures
LeBron James scored 30, Marcelinho Huertas dropped 13 dimes (or 10-centavo coins) and Barack Obama was Suzy Kolbered by the First Lady on national television. After opening the second quarter trailing 27-17, Chris Paul and the rest of Team USA ratcheted up the intensity and used a 20-5 second quarter to capture a lead they’d never lose, eventually winning 69-80.
We saw a few things we’d like to share with you.
1. “Marcelinho Huertas Is Every Bit As Good As Jeremy Lin:” Fran Fraschilla said it on ESPN2. Then I said Woah on my couch. But woah as in ballsy, not as in bullshit. Not usually in concurrence with Fran’s international comparisons, I found this one strikingly reasonable. Yes, Marcelinho’s wrists still bear scrapes from Xavi Pascual’s handcuffs in Barcelona, and yes Jeremy Lin will be making multiple millions over the next few years (Houston? New York? Besiktas?), but watching Huertas’ pick, roll and pass seminar last night on his way to 11 points and 13 assists reminded us all of just how exciting the 29-year-old Brazilian point could be with Coach Ruben Magnano’s blessing. Meanwhile, Lin turned it over 16.9 percent of the time in pick and roll settings last season, more than any NBA player with at least 250 situations to pull from. Lin’s quicker, younger and a better scorer, but a better point guard? No way.
2. Deron Williams Is Going To Come Up Big: Mainly because he is big. Wider, stronger, taller and more equipped to stomach the death-by-handcheck than Chris Paul, Williams will use what he learned in Turkey to back up CP3 and perhaps start if Paul’s thumb—or any other malady—keeps him on the bench. Deron didn’t stuff the stat sheet against the South Americans (6 points, 1 assist, 2 turnovers in 19 minutes), but with Derrick Rose out and Coach K sliding Russell Westbrook into Dwyane Wade’s old, off-ball spot, D-Will will look to have his jersey retired in London when it’s all said and done.
3. Size Doesn’t Matter: Not yet, at least, and maybe never. With no Howard, no Bosh, and a would-be rising sophomore sitting on the bench in Anthony Davis, Team USA will have nights when they’re beaten on the boards. Brazil—whose trio of Tiago Splitter, Nene and Anderson Varejao is one of the scariest in the field—pulled down 38 to USA’s 30 last night, for instance. But what was lost on the glass was stolen away in the USA’s half court traps and in the passing lanes, as Coach K’s pressure turned the Brazilians over 23 times, 19 of them steals and plenty leading to easy fast break buckets. It will be tough for teams to exploit the supposed size advantage if they can’t even settle into their offense.
4. Don’t Lean on Leandro: As is custom every four years, casual fans and highly-paid American pundits look at Team USA’s opponents, take their hands out and do what’s natural: count the NBA players. Nene, Splitter, Varejao, Barbosa. Boom. That’s four. Please, World. Don’t fall for it this time. Barbosa has a fast pair of legs, quick hands and an awkward jumper, but he’s not this team’s leader (that’d be Huertas). He’s a good, at times very good, scorer. Magnano knows it, and it’s time for the rest of the world to let Leandro do what Leandro does.
5. It’s Lima Time: The kid yanked down more rebounds per minute than anyone in the ACB this season (4.6 RPG in just 11.7 minutes), and has vocalized his willingness to play the three, yet the 6’10” 20-year-old got a DNP in Monday’s exhibition. Why? Because he was cut several days ago as Magnano chose to go with a veteran line-up rather than bring along Brazil’s future. When your point guard (Huertas), shooting guard (Barbosa) and small forward (Alex Garcia) are all listed at 6’3″, mixing in the 6’10” 20-year-old on the perimeter couldn’t hurt.
1. Splitter’s Knee Bend: Did anyone else notice just the pure fundamental beauty that is Splitter’s knee bend? Whether for a devastating screen, creating power to go up for a board or getting ready to load up for a hook shot, Tiago would make any yoga teacher proud. The symmetry and balance make it an art form.
2. Russell Westbrook Is The Best Bench Player Ever: It just sucks that he’s so good that he has to start in the NBA because Russell Westbrook is the perfect bench guy. He plays with abundant amounts of energy, gets after it on defense, and makes a decent amount of stupid decisions. The tempo change he brings is culture shocking.
3. A One-Footed Huertas: Most coaches yell at you when you go off one foot or jump in the air before knowing exactly what you’re about to do. Huertas doesn’t care about those coaches. Whether he’s going up for a feathery floater or trying to figure out at which angle he’s about to hit a big, Huertes does his best work off one foot. Just keep your eye out for when he gets in the air and you see one calf rising ahead of another; magic is about to happen.
4. Kevin Love Farts: It’s blatantly obvious why Kevin Love isn’t getting more playing time: it’s the farts. He looks to have hammered on a few excess pounds since the NBA season ended and with delicious Las Vegas brunches all around him, it’s become painfully evident that Love has been letting out too much gas for the coaching staff to handle. Some may say it’s a secret weapon on defense but on the bench, it’s just cluttering Coach K’s subbing patterns.
5. LeBron Isn’t The Best At Sharing: He dominates the ball so much for the Heat that it’s sometimes tough for Lebron to play in a more international, ball movement offense. He usually stops, takes a few dribbles, and drives or pulls-up. The guy is a gifted passer, don’t get me wrong, but it’s usually off of his own creation, not necessarily fitting into the offensive scheme. Take a load off, LeBron, and just work the ball around. Don’t force, just fit.