As a Spurs fan I was very excited to see Saturday's opening round game pitting France and Tony Parker against Argentina and The Sickness. (That's The Official PoundingTheRock.com nickname for Manu Ginobili; it's been a while since I've written so I figured I would refresh everyone's memory.) Unfortunately that's not going to happen because The French Layup Machine fractured the tip of his right index finger. Fortunately that is his shooting hand, which hopefully will force him to learn to actually make shots with his left hand.
OK, so that was a little cheap.
I feel bad for Tony; who wouldn't want to represent their country in the World Championships? Besides Tim Duncan, of course.
Wow. That was cheap, too.
Parker is handling this quite well in the press, saying all the right things:
Not a "good idea?" He's being modest. That's so cute and...French. The idea of starting the season with Jacque Vaughn as our starting point guard is enough to make me come up with an elaborate exaggeration that concludes with me in a ménage a trois with Denis Leary and Jessica Alba. I realize the Spurs technically still have Beno Udrih on the roster, but if Popovich was willing to play NVE in his stead there's no way he'd get the nod over Vaughn, despite the fact Vaughn's first name is Jacque, which isn't very tough, and it's a perceived lack of toughness that deposited the well coifed Slovenian deep in Pop's wine cellar. Where Beno allegedly reorganized all the red wines by vintage when Pop told him multiple times "Winery name, then vintage." I don't know what Pop expected. Slovenians don't drink wine if the first place. They prefer the fermented innards of butternut squash quaffed right from the gourd. And yes, I'm out of mine.
The US team makes it's official debut in 64 minutes. I caught their first exhibition against Puerto Rico and before the game I honestly didn't know if I would be able to root for them. I was wary of seeing lackadaisical play rooted in arrogance. Instead I saw passionate play rooted in anger; it was a pleasure to watch. And I even like the salute as the semi-official form of celebration. Yes, it's a little cheesy, heavy-handed and smells a little of fishing for good press. But I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt. Unless they lose to Puerto Rico tonight, then I'm taking them all to task for everything little thing.
I want to say a little something about Bruce Bowen and his dismissal from the team. It was definitely, without a doubt, the right move. Let's face it, Bruce was nothing more than a pawn; Colangelo and company never intended to keep him around. His inclusion was meant to set the tone and send the message that everyone had to play defense at an intensity level usually not seen in the NBA. Watching the first half of the opening exhibition was enough for me to know that Bowen was getting cut. Lebron was in his guys face 35 feet from the basket. Arenas was diving out of bounds for a loose ball while up by 20 odd points. Brand was sprinting down the court to contest a fast-break layup at the end of a half.
Bowen has been a key part of the Spurs last two championships, but he's lost a step if not two. The guy's 35! Is he still a better defender at that age than Joe Johnson? In an NBA setting? Yes. But please, fellow Spurs fans, be honest with yourself. When you're as athletic as these NBA players, one-on-one defense is mostly effort and conditioning. In the NBA Joe Johnson has to bring the ball up the court, be involved in every offensive possession and score 22 points a night. Bruce has to play defense (while having the most effective defensive player of his generation behind him 90% of the time) and stand in a corner on offense. On a team as loaded as Team USA, Johnson isn't going to see more than 20 minutes a night and will not have to carry the load on offensive end. In that setting they will be at least 90% the defensive player Bowen could be.
Lastly, Chris Sheridan has lost his damned mind. It's not so much that he picked Bowen to not get cut, it was the reasoning:
Who's going to pitch to Barry Bonds? Who's going to cover Terrell Owens? Who's figuring out how to turn lead into gold? Bruce Bowen! Uh. Calm down Beavis. Pau Gasol is like 5" taller than Bowen with a legitimate post game. He routinely gives the Spurs all sorts of trouble and Pop has never put Bruce on him. And Bowen guarding Parker? What? Bowen doesn't even cover slow point guards, let alone one of the three fastest players in the NBA (Ford and Telfair suck!).