Fortunately for team USA, they can make roster changes between the FIBA Tournament of Americas and the actual Olympics. This is opportunity number one for the U.S. to qualify, and almost certainly the only one they’ll need. The team, as mentioned earlier, dropped Kirk Hinrich and Shane Battier in order to pick up “pure shooters” Mike Miller and Michael Redd. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Mike Miller the same guy who wears a women’s headband during games to keep his mop from getting in his eyes? And doesn’t he reek at basketball? Oh, fantastic. Just what the doctor ordered.
Some countries, like Argentina, aren’t sending their best players to the FIBA event, which is in Las Vegas for one reason or another, again making it easier for the U.S. to lock up a spot in Beijing. Team USA started the qualifying yesterday with a 43-point rout of Venezuela. Other opponents, such as Leandro Barbosa’s Brazil team and Carlos Arroyo’s Puerto Rico will make for stiffer competition. However, for the time being, the US looks pretty good. This is largely due to the presence of good shooters (Michael Redd, Kobe Bryant) and good defensive players (Kobe again, Deron Williams, and even though I don’t love him on this team, Tayshaun Prince). Last night Kobe and Redd combined to knock down 5 of 7 from downtown, proving that they’re capable of scoring from deep with the 12-seamed international ball. Miller, meanwhile, was 2-for-8 from deep and continues to look like an uglified Rebecca Lobo on the floor. Again, it will be easier to gauge how these guys are doing once they play some of the tougher countries. Stay tuned.
Among other countries, Leandro Barbosa dropped 30 (albeit on 9-for-26 shooting) to help Brazil beat Steve Nash-less Canada. Uruguay beat Panama 88-84 despite a 14 point effort from UMass’s own Gary Forbes! Good luck to Gary and please work on your free throws. Those were killer last year (1/5 last night). Carlos Arroyo went 0-for-10 from the field including 0-for-6 from deep and Puerto Rico lost to a bunch of no-namers from Mexico. Keep an eye on these games, especially when Argentina starts playing. Not because they’re any good, but because I want to see if they come out wearing these atrocities:Speaking of atrocious things – remember when Kentucky bailed on UMass and their early-season meeting? If not, the story is here. Basically UK and UMass signed a contract for a home-and-home series last year. The Minutemen went to Rupp arena on December 22, 2006 and lost 82-68. This year the Wildcats were scheduled to return the favor in a game at TD Banknorth Garden. Except, Kentucky bought out the game for 50,000 bucks. This will wind up costing UM about a quarter of a million dollars. Well – it’s not quite the same, but the University of Houston has agreed to fill the vacancy in our schedule created by Kentucky’s selfishness. Thank you, UH – and does anyone else see this as a great opportunity for adidas (who outfits both schools) to have a throwback night? Come on, you know you want it.And finally some good news from Oakland. The Golden State Warriors have officially added Stephane Lasme to their roster. Lasme will make the minimum this year, with a second year team option making the contract total about 1.14 million bills for two years. Congratulations, Stephane. Get ready to run your ass off with those guys.