Friday, July 25, 2008

Reasons To . . . Watch Olympic Basketball

Olympic season is underway, and it should be pretty fun to watch. The actual games kick off in August, a couple of weeks from now, but tonight the U.S. men's team will be playing an exhibition game against team Canada. So, here's some reasons to pay attention:

  1. Good basketball: The men's team is in Group B for the first round, along with Angola, China, Germany, Greece, and Spain. This is by far the tougher Group of the two, but four teams advance to the second round. Most likely, China and Angola will be left behind, but every game will be extremely competitive.
  2. The ugliest frontline in history: Chris Kaman got German citizenship in order to play alongside Dirk Nowitzki for the German team. This should make them a very strong team up front, but also shockingly unattractive. I haven't seen any thorough studies, but I would guess that this would be the ugliest Forward-Center combo in history.

  3. The Sparks fronline: The entire frontline of the Sparks -- Delisha Milton-Jones, Lisa Leslie, and Candace Parker, will be playing for the U.S. women's team. You'd think with a front that good, the Sparks would be a better rebounding team, but whatever. It should be fun to watch them play together.
  4. An early glimpse of some (hopefully) incoming NBA rookies -- it's probably worthwhile to check out Rudy Fernandez on the Spanish team, as he'll be joining the Portland Trailblazers in the upcoming season. Also with the Spanish team is Ricky Rubio, a super-talented 17-year old who will most likely be a lottery pick in next year's draft. He's supposed to be a pretty good defender (and at 6-3 or 6-4 has good size for a point guard) and a complete magician when it comes to passing the ball. Here's a taste (watch the whole thing, there's half-court alley-oops, passes through defenders legs, the whole bit):

    And for Lakers fans, there's the ever mysterious 6'9" point guard Sun Yue. Mitch Kupchak has claimed recently that he's working to get Yue on the roster for next season -- presumably to appear for a few minutes in a handful of games and play for the D-Fenders (D-League team) and hopefully develop into the left-handed Chinese Magic Johnson.

  5. Familiar faces in other places. Like Kaman in Germany, Becky Hammon, a star guard with the San Antonio Silver Stars (and an elegant finisher around the basket) went and got her Russian citizenship in order to play for the Russian national team. Meanwhile, 2-time WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson, an Australian, will be playing for the Australian National Team. On the men's side, several of the teams in the competition have some current NBA players on the squad.
  6. The off chance that Andrew Bogut (Australia) will high-five his imaginary friends:

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