Saturday, 25 August 2007

U.S. Hammers Canada

LEFT: Canada's Juan Mendez gets a hand on a shot by USA's Carmelo Anthony as Ryan Bell looks on; USA defeated Canada in Group B action this afternoon.

The score 113-63 speaks for itself as the Americans just have too much fire power offensively and are too athletic defensively, on and off the ball, for probably any other team at this tournament. Still, there were some things to take away from this game for Canada. Please note these are strictly my own thoughts gleamed primarily from watching Canada's first 4 games of the tournament. It was obvious to me that the one player who could compete with the Americans and in the League apart from Samuel Dalembert, at least today, was 6'5" Olu Famutimi, who showed, even after his mashed up his knee a few years ago, he has the athletic ability to compete with NBA players, although he could get alot stronger. Famutimi made shots (TOUGH shots), got to the rim, was able to create for himself off the dribble and got on the glass. There is another side to playing in the League, which is the ability to defend individually and in a team concept that can make the difference in being a NBA player and not; this game was not one in which one could definitively say that Olu has the skill, understanding of detailed team defensive concepts and effort-level required to be an above average defender in the League but he did show today that he has an offensive package that is League-like. Unfortunately for Carl English, in the short time he was on the floor today, old nemeses of shot selection and decision-making with the basketball were evident. Against lesser teams, bad, off-balance threes from the corner when a ball reversal is warranted or dribbling head down into traffic out-of-control don't end up as dunks in 2 seconds at the other end. In this game and every night in the NBA, that stuff is a given. It is not yet certain yet as to whether English can distinguish between what is and what isn't a good shot - he certainly hasn't proven to understand that consistently in the first 4 games of this tournament. That said, in the right circumstances, he can score using creative skills and good athleticism but, as much as I wish it were different, in my opinion, he's not ready for the League. He was 0-5 today and finished with 2 points on free throws. 6'11" Samuel Dalembert looked ordinary against the U.S.A. as his limited offensive package showed; unlike other games where he had smaller, less athletic checks guarding him, he could not shoot over anyone and certainly could not muscle his way into the paint. Offensively, he is what he is: a long, athletic 4 man who makes a living on the offensive glass and in transition. Remember, his career averages are 7.9 ppg/7.5 rpg with a career-high 10.7 ppg last season. Defensively, viewers may have noticed how often the U.S.A. pulled him out to defend ball screens and Dalembert was exploited early and often. Canada has usually hard hedged and recovered on screens during the tournament and Dalembert just hasn't been showing himself on ball screens and the results usually have been points for opponents. Sam is clearly a tremendous off-the-ball shot blocker and is very tough to post up and score on given his length and leaping ability. But today he was exploited defensively and his offensive limitations were evident. Still, Canada would not be 2-2 right now without Sam's contribution and positive attitude. 6'5" Denham Brown was given some opportunity to flash his one-on-one skills including on the final possession of the third quarter when, with the game clock winding down, he was given the opportunity to go mano-on-mano with Chauncey Billups. Generally speaking, it looks like Brown is trying to play a team game, trying to share the ball and make others around him better but tends to fall into wanting to break people down on his own and either pull-up and get to the rim. He is a solid talent but at 6'5" he doesn't have the range on his jumper needed to be a 2 man (compare him to Michael Redd and Mike Miller for instance) and doesn't give you enough other things like defending, post-up game, rebounding and playmaking to be a 3 in the League. I hope I am wrong. 6'7" Juan Mendez competed today and showed very solid skills and did everything with confidence. However, he is a 4/5 in the body of a 2/3 for the purposes of the League. A great player internationally and for Canada. U.S.A. vs. Canada Box Score

Canada now gets set for the quarter-final round and, if I understand correctly, will take a 1-2 record into that round. Canada will play the 4 teams from Group A which qualify for the next round. As of now, it appears that Argentina, who Canada defeated recently at the Tuto Marchand Continental Cup in Puerto Rico, will be one of the 4 teams however 3 more teams among Puerto Rico, Panama, Uruguay and Mexico must play their way in. Group A after Argentina (2-0) is still wide open however Puerto Rico (1-2) and Panama (1-2) both already have 2 losses. More should be understood after tonight's action in Group A when Uruguay (1-1) meets Puerto Rico and Mexico (1-1) meets Argentina. Again, it is not clear, however, the top four teams (out of 8) in the next round will advance to the championship semi-finals next weekend with the 2 semi-final winners immediately advancing to Beijing. Canada (1-2) will likely need to win at least 3 of their 4 games to get into the top 4. Teams slotted from 5th to 8th place after the next round will continue to play off to determine fifth place and the alleged final spot for the wild card tournament which begins July 7th, 2008 at a location still to be determined. Best of luck to Canada.

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