Four of the 12 spots for Olympic basketball in 2016 (Rio) are in the books -- Brazil is the host nation, so they are in. The United States won the 2014 FIBA World Cup, so they are in. Australia won the 2015 FIBA Oceania Championship (against one other team, New Zealand). And Nigeria powered through to win AfroBasket 2015 (16 different teams, a full tournament . . . Nigeria had to win six games to make it to Rio, Australia only had to win one of the two games, and finish with a higher total points value to book their tickets). Three spots will be decided in July 2016 . . . so there are five left unaccounted for: two in the Americas, two in Europe, and one for Asia.
The FIBA Americas tournament is a 10 team, double round-robin deathmatch. You have to win in the group stage to get placed into the next round, and if you perform well there then you get to go to the knock out round with a high seed. Brazil was already bounced from the group stage, and they had nothing to play for this off-season. They won the PanAm games men's tournament with their 2nd and 3rd stringers. And Raul Neto has been in Utah most all off-season so there wasn't much to watch there.
The final round is host Mexico (4-0), Argentina (4-0), Canada (3-1), and the Dominican Republic (2-2) going at it. As stated earlier, two of the tickets to the Olympics are up for grabs. It will be interesting to see which teams want it most. Personally, I'd love to see Canada get there. They have a lot of NBA talent (Andrew Wiggins, Nik Stauskas, Robert Sacre, Dwight Powell, Kelly Olynyk, Andrew Nicholson, Cory Joseph, Melvin Ejim, and Anthony Bennett), but if they make the Olympics it could be an opportunity for our guy Trey Lyles to represent the Jazz there. (All Jazz players from the Americas were held out of playing for their nations this off-season.)
IT'S EUROBASKET TIME! Or, uh, tag. Or something. This is a 24 team tournament, with a group stage then a knock out tournament. Let's check up on the carnage:
- Group A -- France is 2-0 and Rudy Gobert is just wrecking fools left and right, their remaining games in the group stage are vs Poland, vs, Russia, and vs. Israel. The Russian squad is in shambles and don't have a lot of talent. Poland does have Marcin Gortat, but Rudy isn't afraid of him. Israel will be a test for sure, but I think after that scare by former Jazzman Erik Murphy and Finland (OT win), I think they'll be ready.
oh my god diaw gobert popopo pic.twitter.com/qt1IuXgTx5— philippe (@philousports) September 6, 2015
- Group B -- Serbia, Spain, Italy, Germany, Turkey, and Iceland . . . at full strength this group is deadly. But the teams in them are not at full strength. Spain has Gold medal winning talent, and will want to avenge their Bronze from all EuroBasket (which stopped a Gold medal three-peat for them from 2009, 2011, and 2013). Sadly, Raul Lopez didn't make this year's squad, but he did play for their senior men's team from 2000 to 2010 winning a few medals along the way. Turkey is another team with a bunch of NBA players on it, but I don't know if you can win Europe with Cedi Osman, Ersan Ilyasova, Semih Erden, and Furkan Aldemir -- and no NBA level guards. They have so much size Enes Kanter could be excluded (also political, but whatevs). I think the rooting interest for Jazzfans is for Germany, who have Jazz killer Dirk Nowitzki, Jazz crush Dennis Schroder, Jazz coach Alex Jensen, and Jazz rookie Tibor Pleiss on it. No team has so far distinguished themselves in this group, but it's early. There are three round-robin games left to play.
- Group C -- Greece (no Kosta Koufos), Croatia (yes Ante Tomic), Slovenia (yes Zoran Dragic), The Netherlands (no Francisco Elson), Macedonia (no Pero Antic), and Georgia (yes Zaza Pachulia) is like a who's who of Vladimir Putin's "to do" list. Greece should handle everyone here, and are currently 2-0 so far in the group.
- Group D -- actually this is Putin's "to do" list, with Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, and Estonia all in here with Belgium and the Czech Republic. Lithuania is powerful, but only 2-1 so far and have shown some flaws. Ukraine's team captain is Kyrylo Fesenko. I love that. I also love that they are 0-2 because he seems to keep fouling out ever game, and they don't have anyone to pass to down the stretch. (Fes is their go-to-guy in the paint. And he's doing his Shaq impersonation in the Group stage).
I kid you not, here's Kyrylo Fesenko throwing it down on Jonas Valanciunas (who just signed a $64 million deal with an East playoff team) -- as Fes led (?) Ukraine to a one point loss over traditional basketball powerhouse Lithuania.
They both finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 1 assist. Fes fouled out, and that kinda was the game. Full highlights below:
These include an even nastier jam. Fes seems to have grown into his body and is having fun playing the game again. I don't think he'll ever have the skills of Tibor Pleiss (and he'll never be in the same league as Ante Tomic), but it's nice to see him finally using that body on the court the way Jerry Sloan would want. (Save for the "I can't foul you, I'm in foul trouble" defense, that we see a bit of in the video above.) He's averaging 16.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.0 bpg, 1.0 apg, shooting .536 from the floor, .500 from the line, and doesn't seem to sub himself out to take smoke breaks anymore.
What's left is FIBA Asia, an after-though after the three major tournaments in Africa, Americas, and Europe. There's only one spot up for grabs, and the tournament hasn't started yet. The host nation is China, and the 15 other nations would need to make a dream team squad to try to displace them from the top. Iran is a regional power in basketball, and the Philippines play an exciting style, but no one has the size and fundamentals to beat China. Last FIBA Asia had it going Iran gold, Philippines silver, and South Korea bronze, with China finishing fifth. I really don't see them going out there and not winning this one.
That's one really long, international, beat. Let's take it more homegrown and see what Paul Millsap, Elijah Millsap, John Millsap, and Abraham Millsap are up to. Oh, it's physical basketball.
Thanks to the amazing Diana for finding this! What other foursome of basketball brothers can you remember? The only one I can think of is Rick Barry's kids.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, there were only 13 players last season who managed to average at least 14.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, and 4.0 apg, while playing in at least 50 games. (Source) One of them was Gordon Hayward, who finishes 8th on that list of 13 players in Win Shares, while being 11th in MPG. The others are: James Harden, LeBron James, John Wall, Damian Lillard, Victor Oladipo, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Eric Bledsoe,
Kyle Kowry (no, not Kyle Korver, stop writing his name, he's not coming back, I meant to write Kyle Lowry), Russell Westbrook, Tyreke Evans, and Stephen Curry. Almost without fail, those guys are nationally known for their skills with the ball in their hands, and for the most part are all All-Stars. If you eliminate the point guards and just look at wing players you have Harden, James, G-Time, Oladipo, and Evans. Harden, Dipo, and Evans are effectively combo guards (SG/PG), even if right now Evans is playing SG/SF for the Pellies.
This helps show how rare Gordon was last season. Also, grudgingly underscores the only true outlier was Blake Griffin. And over the last five seasons you have LeBron James going for 15/4/4 at least 5 times, and then a whole bunch of wings doing it either three or two times (Kobe Bryant, Tyreke Evans, James Harden, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Gordon Hayward, and Paul Pierce). (Source)
Gordon is now going into his sixth season in the NBA. Is this the season he gets the respect of more than just Matt Devlin and Doris Burke? I hope so, he's at least breaking Jazz records, he joins a pantheon of only Karl Malone (6 times), Pete Maravich (3), Adrian Dantley (2), and Andrei Kirilenko (1) as the only players to ever average those minimum numbers in a Jazz jersey.
Sadly, the main issue here seems to be that this is a points obsessed league. The guys who averaged at least 15/4/4 last season are also some of the guys who averaged 20/4/4 last season. Even on the Jazz list, three of those guys were 20 ppg guys for their careers. Gordon just isn't going to be a guy who a) needs to play 36+ mpg for his team to win, and b) is playing in an iso-heavy offense that sinks or swims on his individual numbers. Which is why a guy like Carmelo Anthony is an 8 time All-Star in the league (career 25.2 ppg) while getting out of the first round of the playoffs only twice in his career.
Gordon has only been to the playoffs once, got bounced, and doesn't score a lot. So it's easy to overlook what he does as a player.
So what's more important, in order to get Gordon the respect he deserves: average 20 ppg, or show up in the playoffs?
Missing basketball? Peep this recently uploaded video of of this Phoenix Suns @ Utah Jazz playoff video from 1984:
The boxscore can be found here, and spoilers, the Jazz draft John Stockton and Karl Malone in the next two off-seasons so this one game doesn't matter. But the lesson here, I guess, is that you can be a big time scorer on a team that loses in the playoffs and still be overlooked.
Chin up Gordon. (In before owmychin.gif) For those who don't know, I'm talking about Adrian Dantley.
The NBA Tips off in about 50 days (depending on which side of the international date line you are on). What are you going to do over the next little while? Are you rooting for a College Football team? Spending time with loved ones? Going over film from a few years ago to try to figure out how you got fired from two teams in quick succession, and wondering why Mo Williams was the guy making late game offense/ defense substitutions while you just did an "angry teapot" pose?
Me? I'm debating on getting league pass this season or not. Is it worth it?