As I type this, Turkey is playing Slovenia. Now normally, I'm a supporter of one Beno Udrih. Even when most Spurs fans I know can't stand the guy, I think he's a perfectly decent backup PG and he deserves some love. Sure, he has his faults, but all backup PGs have their faults. If they didn't, they'd be starters, right?
I go into the '06-07 season hoping the backup job is his and with Tony's finger being what it is, Beno can carve a nice 15-20 min niche for himself before Frenchie McWonderbutt starts playing major minutes again. Hopefully a solid (but unspectacular) performance thus far in the Worlds has boosted his confidence a bit.
Still, for one game, tonight, I hope Beno sucks. I mean sucks like Game 3 at Detroit in '05 kinda sucks. Well no, I take that back. I hope he goes for 30 and 10 assists but my homies win by a few buckets anyway, 85-80.
I've seen a few WBC games here and there, and so far there haven't been too many surprises. I always thought Brazil and Puerto Rico were a bit overrated, so their exits weren't the jawbreaking calamities some folks make them out to be. If your best player is a scoring point guard... well Spurs fans know where I'm going with this.
No, I like my point guards to be passers, and this brings me to Argentina of course, with Pepe Sanchez. The fact that he's not a backup PG in the league I think is proof that A) there are still a lot of stupid GMs in the Association and B) Still a lot of xenophobia as well.
Does Sanchez have weaknesses in his game? You bet. Not a great defender, not a great shooter. You know this. But the guy can pass it like a motherfucker and has a good handle and is very very unselfish. He clearly knows and understands his role on the national team and he won't shoot it unless he is wide open and there are no better options. I would trade him for Beno in a millisecond and like I said before, I like Beno.
Now I guess Sanchez could theoretically be playing professionally in Europe by choice, but I still think it's silly for not one NBA team to pony up a decent offer and for a coach to tell him, "For 15 to 25 minutes a night, this is your show." It really boggles the mind.
His backup, some dude named Pablo something or other is curious as well. He plays a little faster, a little more frenetic, but the guy throws the hardest passes I've ever seen a PG make in my life. I mean he's like 10 feet behind the 3 point line, just firing rockets to the post for Luis Scola and Oberto. I have no idea how those guys were catching these passes. I think I'd pay 20 bucks to see him on the same team as Nazr, just for the comedy. And 20 bucks is saying something for me since I'm nearly broke.
As for the rest for team Argentina, the play of Luis Scola is putting me in a sour mood. The guy is good. A lot better than I expected. This is my first extended look at him and he clearly has skills in the post and a good back to the basket game. Decent passer and defender as well. Would he be an upgrade over Horry at backup point? At this stage in RoHo's career, absolutely. Personally, I think if Tim wasn't too stubborn to move to the five spot, Scola would be a decent starter at PF for 28 mins a night. I can't understand why we won't pay his transfer fee. Is our FO that cheap? We just threw money at NVE and Rasho and Brent and we can't pay Luis Scola? For shame Spurs, for shame.
Their top bench big man, Walter Hermann just signed a deal with Atlanta, and that's a rare good move for the Hawks FO. Sure, Herman's got a fruity little blond ponytail, but he's got a good outside shot, a thick build, and a versatile offensive game. Defensively he won't be as bad as he looks because he's Argentinian and all those guys hustle. Of course, since Atlanta has about 8 guys who are 6'9, he won't play much probably.
Now the shooting guard, you mighta heard something about him. Unorthodox fella with a big nose. I can report that he is back to his old tricks. I got a hoot out of seeing him dribble a ball between some Frenchie's legs on a fast break to keep the ball alive on the sidelines. He's had some fastbreak layups, a bunch of 3s, a couple of crazy passes here and there and I think something like six thefts in one game.
Unfortunately, just like the dominant Pedro Martinez from '98 to '01 is gone, the high jumpin' mad dunkin' Manu of '03 to '05 is gone too, I'm afraid. Whatever injuries plagued him last year seems to have inflicted permanent damage, because I'm just not seeing the vintage hops from The Sickness.
Not that it's hindering his play here. He had 25 against France in their opener, 20 (in 17 minutes) against Nigeria on 7 of 9 shooting, and just hours ago, in their round of 16 game vs New Zealand he finished with 28, on 10 of 15 shooting. I have no idea if that game will ever be televised and ESPN2 is screwing everything up by changing its schedules at the last second and deciding to televise reality TV boxing instead of hoops.
That's right, ESPN made a stupid programming decision. I'm as shocked as you are.
Speaking of which, I almost had to turn off tonight's broadcast of the Eagles-Steelers game, the crew is so painful to listen to. I like Kornheiser on PTI, but he stinks at this new job so far. Tirico is alternatingly either bland or lame, and Theismann's complete ineptness at broadcasting has been well documented (is he the Joe Morgan of football or is Morgan the Joe Theismann of baseball?)
Still, the Eagles played very well against the World Champion Steelers, and even though it's only preseason, I'm very encouraged. I'm like 97% convinced Philly will be a playoff team this year, if the stars stay healthy. The amazing comebacks of safety JR Reed and running back Correll Buckhalter from horrific injuries has been incredible and almost inspiring thus far. Very happy about that.
Okay sorry for the brief football tangent, back to roundball.
So who's left? Oh right, Turkey. Finally saw my boys play the other night on the Tivo, against Lithuania. Got a chance to check out Spurs property Robertas Javkotas.
My report on the young man is that he has a muscular frame, looks like a decent athlete, and has some skills. However his two major weaknesses are an inablility to stay on the floor long because of foul trouble (his high in five games has been 21 minutes) and free throw shooting that would make Ben Wallace blush (8 of 28). So really, based on that, I don't really care if he ever plays for the Spurs or not. But he did have one game vs the Aussies where he went for 16 and 12 in like 19 minutes.
Anyway, nobody thought much of Turkey coming into the tournament, including me, because their two best players, Mehmet Okur and Hedo Turkoglu aren't on the team. I think they both wanted to miss all the training camps and practice games and just show up for the tournament, like Owens wants to do for the Cowboys. The coach would have none of it and sent them home.
So consequently their only NBA player is 19 year old Ersan Ilyasova of the Bucks. First time I've seen the kid play, and I gotta say I was impressed. Looks very fluid, very athletic. Has a nice shot from 3, but not afraid to drive either. He's young, but he's got loads of potential. Is he another Dirk or Gasol? No. But he is 6'10" and I can tell you right now he'll be a helluva better player than Hedo when it's all said and done.
Still, somehow, some way Turkey upset Lithuania, Brazil, and Australia, and knocked off weaklings Qatar to boot to set up a showdown for Group C supremecy with archrivals Greece. Unfortunately they lost that game 76-69(Ilyasova sat out with a bad ankle) so they finished 2nd in the group).
Besides him they have a couple of swingman vets in Serkan Erdogan (who went off for 30 against Greece, in their one loss) and Ibrahim Kutluay who can score and some spunky power forwards in Kerem Gonlum and Kaya Peker. All four have the talent to be borderline NBA roster guys at the Sean Marks level, the 12th or 13th men, but since the youngest of them (Peker) is 26 and the rest are 29 or older, none will get a shot.
Clearly, Ilyasova will lead their next generation. And hopefully at this moment he's leading them over Slovenia.
Which means I'll have to not like Manu for one game. What stupid Nazi came up with this brackett?