In what may have been the best
sporting event I have ever atended, Argentina just slayed Venezuela while playing perfect basketball on both ends on the Orfeo Stadium, placed in the city of Cordoba where I study. I Had trouble with the camera because I dont have one, so I dont know If I can get pictures and video up. Hopefully my friend could take some photos with his cel phone, Ill post them later.
I was able to watch all the action from the 2nd row and I have to say… the experience really surpassed my expectactions. It was just breathtaking to watch all these incredible players in person. Ill get to the details in just a bit, but each player had something distinctive about them. Its just not the sheer size, its not just the amazing display of abilities….its something else. Just like every great team, this group shows something extra when they are together.
I have a lot to say about the whole experience, so If you just want to go the part where Manu appears go to MANU ALERT MANU ALERT MANU ALERT!!....but maybe youll miss an anecdote about our beloved argentinean along the way ^^
Friday, 14:00, the coach talks
In an unexpected turn of events, Julio Lamas (argentina’s coach) had an agreement to give a special conference-dissertation in my university. Lamas is a well known coach on FIBA basketball, he coached Argentina, several argentinean clubs and Real Madrid. The catch was that an invitation was needed to attend the conference. Gladly, being the captain of the Psychology basketball team I was able to get an invitation for me and a friend.
50 or so people where in the conference, where Julio Lamas shared his vision on how to manage a team of basketball, but the concepts were clearly applicable for other areas of life. While he was talking I was thinking how all of those concepts were used on the spurs.
He talked about teamwork, about pulling together as a team, about treating matters as a unified group always behind closed doors and never using the media for it. Sound familiar? He also mentioned that as a coach you need discipline to lead a team, but without being autoritary. On this aspect Lamas demostrated to have a different approach to coaching than Pop. We all know that Pop tends to be harder on his players and demanding. Which was is better? As Lamas said, there’s no perfect approach at coaching a basketball team. Each coach will have his own opinión, but what’s its important its that the coach is fair with its players and has a defined system of work.
Maybe the most interesting part of the talk were the anecdotes, some of which maybe only the 50 people that atended the event may know now. Ill share the one youll care more: a young 18 year old or so Manu Ginobili arguing with the veteran SG of the team (Hugo Sconochini) about shot selection. Sconochini was trying to teach the young lad to take better shots, but apparently Manu wouldnt listen and the two started fighting. Lamas saw all the action and his first reaction was to side with the young star. This was in 1997. Sconochini, the starter SG of Argentina at the time, played the 1998 world championship holding a grudge against coach Lamas for siding with Ginobili. He was so pissed off that he left the national basketball team after that. Lamas didnt know the reason Hugo left at the time, he thought the fight with Manu was well in the past. For the 2004 olympics (the one where argentina won gold) Lamas and Sconochini cleared everything and solved the situation. Hugo was a key part as Manu’s reserve in that tournament (maybe youll remember him for this, he is the one with the behind the back pass).
So there you have it, Manu hasnt always been perfect. It shows you how much a player can grow, not only in skills but also in personality. He wasnt the culprit of Sconochini leaving the team, but he was involved in the initial situation.
Saturday, 18:30, basketball is basketball
The tickets I got where for the finals and 3rd place game of the Super 4 tournament. Friday night Argentina won 80-67 against Cuba, a really reallly weak team that somehow put up a fight. Venezuela beat Uruguay, so the 3rd place game was being played first between the two losers.
As teams where shooting around, Cuba looked like the clear favorite. Both them and Uruguay are crappy teams, but the cubans had some real athleticism and length. Guys were displaying some nice dunks, while the Uruguay team looked like a bunch of guys taken from the stands. Then the game began and….shocker! Uruguay demolished Cuba with some great team play and ability. As we as Spurs fans should know, athleticism and height arent everything about basketball. The cubans looked terrible on half court sets, and they played a very selfish brand of basketball. Uruguay tored them apart with smart passes.
After the game was over, the wait for the national team began. People started filling the Orfeo stadium. I have to say, I was very impressed with the stadium, it was just HUGE and just beautiful. It has capacity for 12.000 or so fans. The court was top notch. Outside the NBA and United States, its a luxury to have a stadium like this.
20:20 the national team shows up along with a beloved baldy
And the cheers began. Nocioni (one of my favorite players in the world just because of his heart and passion), Paolo Quinteros and Pepe Sanchez showed up for the shoot around. Pepe, a 37 year old point guard returning to the national team after 6 years, jump on board this time because the intention of this team its to give one last shot at a championship. He was a key member of the so called "golden generation" of Argentina’s basketball.
After that, more players began to show up. Scola, Delfino, Oberto (who got a huge cheer from the crowd because he is a local) and then…. (MANU ALERT MANU ALERT MANU ALERT!!) the crowd went crazy. Rock star level crazy. A thin and long baldy with a very big nose just walked into the court and waved a couple of times at the crowd. The two friends I was with just went to buy something to eat while I remain there alone in shock. I thought my reaction was going to be shouting something to manu and cheering for him…but I went into super focused mode. I just wanted to absorb everything with my eyes.
Manu started shooting some three pointers and long 2’s. And then…he started to drive to the hoop. And holy shit he started doing some incredible dunks. His atlheticism is just…..incomprensible. it cames out of nowhere. At first glance he only looks like a long unlathletic white guy (think of Barry circa 2008). But when he starts to jump and drive…..wow holy mother of all that is graceful!! The other atlhetic guy on the team, Carlos Delfino, can really dunk the ball too, and he can really jump…but its differnent. In a court full of special players, Manu is on a world by itself, he is a REALLY unique player. The best definition I can come up with is that he "floats" around the court, like his feet are not even touching the ground. When he jumps, he remains in the air like forever. He glides from side to side, and when you dont expect him he goes into full steam and attacks the rim with ferocity. His changes of speed are astonishing…..AND THE GAME HAS NOT EVEN STARTED YET!!. I feel blessed to watch him play, even if its only for one night in my life. San Antonians, I envy you so so so much.
As for the other team, Greiviz Vasquez (who plays for the Grizzlies as you may remember) went unnoticed by me. I wonder why ^^ The other important guy for Venezuela (Romero) will sit out…apparentely he injured himself on the shootaround o_O. A shame…I like the guy a lot, he was the one fighting against Carmelo and cia when they were disrespecting Venezuela on a beatdown where usa was up by 40.
game demolishion of Venezuela begins
And the game begins!! WHOOHOOO GO ARGENTINA!! Kill Venezuela!!!! The starting lineups are:
Venezuela: Greivis Vasques PG, unknown SG, unknown SF, athletic rangy PF and fat center #1, COACH: ERIC MUSSELMAN, the former NBA coach!!
Argentina: Pepe Sanchez PG, God SG, Carlos Delfino SF, Chapu Nocioni PF and Luis Scola C, COACH: Julio Lamas
Well go the rest of the way in bullet points, just because.
--On the first possesion of the game, Nocioni flops TWICE. He fells to the ground like someone has shot him in the face with a quake 3 Bazooka. The refs dont bite.
--After some misses by both teams, Delfino breaks the silence with a nice shot. He is a known to be a quiet guy and a very good teammeate, but you wouldnt think that with his body language and general demeanor, he looks like he thinks to high about himself. That’s Delfino, a bit arrogant sometimes, but a good guy nonetheless.
-Argentina’s defense is doing an amazing job. Venezuela cant score. And it all begins with the perimeter. He is already 37, but Pepe Sanchez was once maybe the best point guard defender in the world. I remember in 2003 against Canada he just DESTROYED Steve Nash. He has lost a lot of speed so he is a shell of his former self but his size helps him a lot to still being a factor defensively. Think of Jason Kidd.
-Manu Ginobili and Carlos Delfino are two of the best perimeter defenders in the world. Its no coincidende Carlos gets so much minutes on the Skiles Bucks. They are wreaking havoc on Venezuelas wings. I want Delfino on the spurs NOW. Make it happen RC.
-Chapu looks great and is scoring all over the place. Post ups, three pointers, cuts to the rim. He is a very different animal with argentina. A shame he loses his control and focus while playing in the NBA.
-Grevies Vasques apparentely got injured. He will never return to the game. He still got time to look suffocated by Delfino
-Manu with the long shots. He never misses. Crowd screams like possesed with each Manu basket.
-Wow, its incredible to watch how Manu fights through screens and players. No wonder he gets open so often, the man never stops moving and fighting to get in position.
-Manu and pepe are such gifted passers. They both throw "no look bullets". Who says passing isnt funny?
-35-8 and Argentina is playing brilliantly. Venezuela is trying but they look overmatched. They try too play physical, but these guys are tested veterans. They wont rattle. You may know how Manu thrives on physical games. The whole argentinean team is geared like that.
-Oberto comes in with 2 left or so in the first quarter. Crowd goes crazy. After 10 months of being retired, he comes back to profesional basketball. He is so important for Argentina. Not only is he our best center, he also is a beloved teammate.
-The other argentinean subs start to come in. The difference between starters and subs is HUGE. Still the maintain the lead of 30 or so points untill halftime.
-HALFTIME SHOW: some unremarkable dances by a cheerleading squad and….they are throwing prices to the crowd!! I want on of those big inflatable balls…I WANT ONE….one is coming my way….oh no the people in front of me is going to get it….SNATCH!!! I do my best Blair impersonation and get the ball even while it seemed impossible. NIce!! Im already happy… I dont need more gifts….WAITT!! THEY ARE THROWING SOME NICE FRISBEES!!! I WANT ONEE!!!.... one comes flying around 3 seats to my right…I hold the big ball with one hand and extend my long right arm….I slap the frisbee to me and then I get the fucker with only one hand. YEAHH, greed has made me a hell of a rebounder. :D People around me kill me with their stares. My friends laugh. The second half is about to start.
-Argentina wont slow down. Manu has already played brilliantly in the first quarter while playing more of a controled game. Now he comes out of the gate firing in all cylinders. Its obvious this guy cant be much time without playing basketball. Venezuela doesnt have a clue of what to do with him.
-Manu receives the ball on the perimeter, dribbles the ball to one side, to the other, he has already passed two players on his way to the rim and the big man comes to block him…..HE GOES UP FOR THE LEFT HAND SLAMMERR POSTERIZATION and….AUUU!!! Its a defensive foul and manu missed the dunk by a bit. The crowd goes wild anyways. All eyes are on Manu.
-Paolo quinteros, shorter than Tony Parker, shows how constant moving and an impecable stroke can make you a very good player. He could have a spot in the NBA, considering guys like Damon Jones and Eddie House have made so much money. He has always been better than those 2.
-Manu receives a pass, fakes the defender into flying against him making him look stupid….looks at the rim while the defender recovers and tries to block manu again…..Manu fakes again and makes his signature step back 3 pointer. SWISHH. Simply unstoppable.
-The 4th quarter is an extended period of garbage time. Still, argentina’s reserves come out with something to prove. They want to show that they belong. And they dont dissapoint. Remember Federico Kammerichs (Blazers hold rights)? The lost Barry brother? He has like 4 blocks, 2 steals, 6 points, a dunk and a couple of rebunds in 5 minutes. A crowd pleaser.
-Manu hasnt played in the 4th….and we start thinking we may not see him again on this game. But suddenly, with 3 minutes left in the game and Argentina up by 50…the crowd starts chanting for Manu. We got louder and louder…..Manu smiles. WAIT! He is talking to the coach…takes the warm up jacket….YEESS HE IS COMING BACK!! He plays the final 3 minutes without doing much, and we show him more love. Im happy. I dont remember when was the last time I was THIS happy. Somewhere in a vineyard, in front of televison put on top of a barrel of chardonay, Popovich is not happy. Julio Lamas life is in danger.
-Final Score: 106-53…we doubled their point total. Venezuela has always been a decent american team, maybe the best one behind USA, Brazil , Argentina and Canada. And we destroyed them. Im excited about this argentinean team. They are clearly long in the tooth, and we may have a couple of bench issues, but we are clearly a candidate to win it all in next summer olympics.
That’s it. Thanks for Reading. I extended quite a bit. Im sorry but I couldnt restrain myself.