Spain vs. Egypt FIBA World Cup 2014: Game Grades, Analysis for La Roja, Pharaohs

Coming off a dominant performance against Iran, Spain showed once again why it’s a FIBA World Cup contender with a 91-54 win over Egypt on Day 2.

Not only did Spain have home-court advantage as host, it had an undeniable edge in size, quickness and just about every major statistical category.

The team jumped out to a 15-2 lead halfway through the first quarter, and while Egypt put together a much better second period, Spain was intent on dominating the entire second half.

 

Spain Grades

Pau Gasol: B

Marc Gasol: B+

Serge Ibaka: A

Rudy Fernandez: A-

Rest of Team: B+

 

Pau Gasol: B

Following Day 1 of the FIBA World Cup, Pau Gasol was the leading scorer and leading efficiency-per-game player of the entire tournament, according to FIBA.com.

Against Egypt, he wasn’t able to reproduce the production that earned him those accomplishments, but he shot well when given the opportunity, which is all Spain needed.

Finishing with 12 points, the new Chicago Bulls big man knocked down 63 percent of his shots. He only managed to grab three rebounds in more than 19 minutes, however, but we’ll give him a pass because his team won that category by 15.

 

Marc Gasol: B+

Marc Gasol entered this contest following a 15-point, 10-rebound performance against Iran. If we’re holding him to that standard, he didn’t have nearly as solid a showing as fans would have liked.

That said, the big man’s role was slightly reduced because of Serge Ibaka‘s return, and quite frankly, he did what he needed to do to intimidate Egypt’s interior players—something that won’t go in any box score. This won’t go down as a memorable performance, but there was nothing wrong with it, either.

 

Serge Ibaka: A

Before the contest began, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann reported that Ibaka was warming up and looking OK after missing Saturday’s competition against Iran.

As it turned out, we saw that for ourselves as soon as he entered the game with a putback slam and a blocked shot late in the first quarter.

Throughout the contest, Ibaka helped spread the floor with his mid-range jumper, but people will remember this one for how often he was soaring above the rim for dunks and rebounds.

In just under 21 minutes, the big man finished with 18 points on 67 percent shooting while bringing down eight boards in the process.

 

Rudy Fernandez: A-

You could see how hard Fernandez was going to play from the opening tipoff. The ball went up, Spain masterfully tipped the ball away from the defense and Fernandez was off to the races for a quick attempt at a transition bucket.

Unfortunately for Fernandez, the rock didn’t drop, as international rules allow defenses to knock the ball off the rim.

However, this was hardly a bad omen for Spain, as Fernandez used his energy to score 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting (2-of-2 from deep) and collect two steals and a block along the way.

 

Rest of Team: B+

When looking at the rest of the roster, there were very few actual poor performances—Jose Calderon’s 0-of-4 shooting in nearly 15 minutes is the exception.

That just proves what kind of level this team is playing at, and it proves that it will contend deep into the World Cup.

During the matchup against Egypt, guys such as Sergio Llull and Sergio Rodriguez played with relentless energy and made plays on both ends that won’t go down in the box score, although numerous players fit that category at different times of the contest.

Three-point shooting was a problem in this one, as the team went just 7-of-25; however, the team nailed 61 percent of its two-pointers, according to FIBA.com, and pushed the tempo to an unmatched level from the onset of the competition.

 

Egypt Grades

Ibrahim Elgammal: B

Amr Gendy: C-

Moustafa Elmekawi: C

Ramy Ibrahim: D-

Rest of Team: D-

 

Ibrahim Elgammal: B

In spite of being down 42-24 after the second period, Egypt had one bright spot at halftime: Ibrahim Elgammal.

The 6’2″ perimeter player came alive in the second quarter, accumulating eight points by the half. His unwillingness to concede early is what made the second period competitive (14 points for Egypt, 16 points for Spain), and he ultimately went on to finish with 16 points, four rebounds and three assists.

 

Amr Gendy: C-

Although Gendy wasn’t quite the silver lining Elgammal was by the end of the first half, he was something of the sort in the first quarter.

When Egypt was struggling to put the ball in the basket early, Gendy was the only consistent option. In fact, he had half of his team’s points until the 8:25 mark of the second quarter.

The only problem is that at that point he only had six points, meaning Egypt only had 12, and he wouldn’t score again the rest of the way.

 

Moustafa Elmekawi: C

Admittedly, you have to search for small details when looking for positives from Egypt’s performance. But that’s what basketball is often about during learning experiences.

When it comes to Elmekawi, the 6’8″ guard was aggressive at the rim in the first quarter. He wasn’t able to do much against the size of Spain, but his footwork was decent, and he threatened points down low despite only scoring six on the night.

 

Ramy Ibrahim: D-

If you think we’ve been generous with Egypt’s grades up to this point considering the final score, you might be right. But that’s about to change as we discuss Ramy Ibrahim.

At 6’9″, the power forward is tied as Egypt’s tallest player, yet nearly half of his total shots were from behind the arc.

He did manage to pull down seven rebounds, but having shot 0-of-7 on the night for zero points, his size may have been better utilized if he’d been aggressive in trying to draw fouls in the paint.

 

Rest of Team: D-

In the first quarter alone, we saw Egypt shoot 0-of-8 from behind the arc. The team found slight success when it attacked the rim, but the problem is that it just didn’t have the confidence to approach the bigs of Spain.

By the end of the game, Egypt had shot just 34 percent from the field and 16 percent from downtown.

We won’t give the rest of the roster an F because there were stretches where attacking the rim seemed like an actual goal, but virtually everything else was tough for fans to swallow. 

 

Coming Up Next

Both of these teams play again on Monday, Sept. 1. Spain will take on Brazil, while Egypt will face France.

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NBA 2K15: Known Game Modes, New Features and Release Date Info

There are many sports games produced each year that cause a serious buzz, but the scheduled release of NBA 2K15 on October 7 is one of the most anticipated moments for basketball fans and gamers alike.

With several new modes added to this year’s edition, major upgrades to the features fans of the game already enjoyed and overall improvements to the gameplay and visual presentation, this could be the most anticipated release in NBA 2K history.

Here are the game modes, new features and overall notes gamers and basketball fans want to hear.

 

Upgrades, Changes and Improvements for NBA 2K15

The annual release of the NBA 2K series is one of the most exciting times for fans, and the developers at 2K Sports will reward loyal fans with several marquee upgrades and changes to the game.

No addition trumps the talk about MyLeague Mode, though.

With a setup similar to the Association Mode in NBA 2K13, fans of the series will now be given complete control of the league and how it is formatted. From divisional alignment to which teams are in your league, gamers can shape their NBA however they want.

Basketball fans can also use created players in this mode, according to 2K Sports community manager Chris Manning:

Another exciting change comes to the Crew Mode of the game. Instead of having a watered-down version of the online game like 2K produced last year, Crew Mode will return in its original form. Unfortunately for many gamers, Crew Mode is only available on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

With most hardcore gamers already moving to the next-generation consoles, the move to release the mode only on the older systems seems counterproductive. Hopefully next year, each edition of the game has the fan-favorite Crew Mode.

Two of the most unique changes come to the presentation of the game. First, the developers at 2K Sports have added more animated graphics to each team’s mascot, further immersing the fans in the live game experience.

The other improvement turning heads is the addition of Shaquille O’Neal and Ernie Johnson, co-hosts of Inside the NBA on TNT, to the game. While the depth of their participation has not been revealed, they were involved in one of the trailers for the game.

With so many changes and improvements, the wait for the eventual release of NBA 2K15 will not be easy for basketball and video game fans everywhere.

 

*Stats and information via 2K.com.

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France vs. Brazil: Game Grades, Analysis for FIBA World Cup 2014 Matchup

The 2014 FIBA World Cup got underway for Brazil and France, with the two teams facing each other in Group A action. It was a close affair, with Brazil taking a lead midway through the second quarter and not relinquishing it in its 65-63 victory. France, for its part, was able to keep things close after trailing by 10 partway through the third quarter, but it was never able to come all the way back.

Brazil Grades

Marcelinho Huertas: A

The Brazilian point guard was the most effective player on the court. He had good ball movement, finding teammates for five assists. On top of that, he also got in on the scoring action, notching a game-high 16 points and spreading the floor by hitting two of his three-point attempts, which helped open up the paint for Brazil’s frontcourt.

He had a nice fourth quarter for Brazil. On one possession he hit a three-pointer, extending the lead to eight. Then a few possessions later he worked a nice give-and-go with Nene.

 

Anderson Varejao: B+

Varejao did what he does best, which is rebound the ball. He had a game-high nine rebounds, including five on the offensive glass in the victory. On top of that, he blocked one shot and got a steal for the Brazilians, as he was one of its most effective players in the paint. While he was only 2-of-8 shooting from the field, he was effective in getting to the charity stripe for a game-high six attempts. 

 

Tiago Splitter: B

Like Varejao, Splitter did his best work in the paint. The center was a pest, especially matched up against NBA teammate Boris Diaw. He recorded six points, three rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block in a well-rounded effort. 

 

Leandro Barbosa: C

Barbosa finished the game with eight points and two rebounds. He wasn’t the most efficient in getting his points, as he only made two of his nine field-goal attempts. However, both of them were three-pointers, which helped to spread the floor and allow Brazil’s frontcourt of Splitter, Varejao and Nene to work.

 

Marquinhos Vieira: B+

Other than Huertas, Vieira was the only other Brazilian in double figures. He finished the game with 10 points. He also brought down six rebounds and nailed one of his two three-point attempts in his team-high 26 minutes of action.  

 

Rest of Team: B

Brazil also got solid efforts from the rest of its team. Nene had a nice game with five points and eight rebounds while shooting guard Raulzinho Neto notched six points, three rebounds and one steal in 17 minutes of action.

 

France Grades

Boris Diaw: A

Diaw was far and away France’s best player. He had a well-rounded game, scoring 15 points, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out six assists. He was also effective on defense, blocking one shot and recording one steal.

Perhaps his most memorable play came at the end of the game when he cut Brazil’s lead to one with only one minute and twenty seconds remaining. Yet he also had a nice coast-to-coast lay-in in the third quarter to get France within five at the start of the fourth.

 

Nicolas Batum: A

As he’s known to do for the Portland Trail Blazers while playing stateside, Batum was solid on both ends of the floor. No sequence displayed that better than one at the beginning of the third quarter. On the offensive end, Batum hit a corner three-pointer. Then on Brazil’s ensuing possession, he blocked a Tiago Splitter shot while coming over as a help defender.

Batum finished the game with 13 points, four rebounds and one assist in a game-high 31 minutes of action.

 

Mickael Gelabale: C

Gelabale was third on the team in scoring, finishing the game with seven points in 24 minutes. He also added two rebounds, one assist and hit his only three-point attempt of the game, as well as three of his five total field-goal attempts. 

 

Rudy Gobert: C-

Gobert‘s best work came in the paint matched up against Splitter. He did a solid job dissuading shots, as he finished with two blocks. He also tallied six points on 3-of-5 shooting to go along with three rebounds.

However, the center also committed a game-high four personal fouls in his 18 minutes of action. That’s saying something since the officials largely let the teams play, with many questionable sequences that would normally be called a foul.

 

Antoine Diot: C

Diot was a pest on defense for France, finishing the game with two steals as well as deflecting another pass. However, he wasn’t very active on offense, only scoring four points and taking four attempts in almost 19 minutes of action.

 

Rest of Team: D

France didn’t get much from the rest of its team. Evan Fournier, another NBA player, didn’t score any points or record any rebounds. His best play was using a foul to give in the closing seconds of the first half, which prevented Brazil from scoring on a fast-break opportunity.  

 

Coming Up Next: 

Both teams return to the court in short order. France takes on Serbia on Aug. 31 at 9:30 a.m. ET, while Brazil faces Iran on Aug. 31 at 12 p.m. ET. 

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USA vs. Finland FIBA World Cup: Game Grades, Analysis for Team USA vs. Wolf Pack

Following a summer full of anticipation, Team USA has finally kicked off the 2014 FIBA World Cup with a commanding 114-55 win over Finland. The tournament won’t be won because of a single good game, but the showing we saw Saturday was emblematic of what we expect to see moving forward.

As efficient as the offense was for the star-laden group of NBA players, the defensive performance is what deserves the most recognition. Finland didn’t score a single field goal in the second quarter, which translates to bad basketball no matter what country you’re from.

To Finland’s credit, the underdogs kept things close for the first five minutes of the game, but a 20-8 U.S. run to close out the first quarter was too much to recover from. Team USA went into the second period with a 15-point lead, and it never looked back, taking Game 1 of the tournament in blowout fashion.

 

Team USA Grades:

James Harden: B+

Anthony Davis: A

Derrick Rose: A-

Klay Thompson: A

Rest of Team: B+

 

James Harden: B+

Before the FIBA World Cup officially began, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo sang Harden’s praises. “Harden is kind of a natural leader and he seems to be willing to accept that role,” Collangelo said, via Michael Lee of The Washington Post

As it turned out, Harden was in fact that leader in Game 1 of the tournament. He came out playing efficient basketball and was the team’s leading scorer after the first quarter. His production slowed down once the game got out of hand and he was able to rest, but his seven early points and hustle on defense (he finished with four steals and one block) helped spark the team’s blowout performance.

 

Anthony Davis: A

Anthony Davis used Game 1 of the FIBA World Cup as a personal showcase. He’s the next great superstar of the NBA, and he reminded fans across the world of that fact in just 14 total minutes.

In approximately nine first-half minutes, Davis recorded 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting, and he did it while utilizing his athleticism in face-up situations. He’d go on to finish with 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting, and while his defense didn’t stick out as much as you might have expected it to on the box score, he was as menacing as ever when it came to shooing people away from the paint and adjusting shots at the rim.

 

Derrick Rose: A-

Kyrie Irving may have earned the starting spot entering this contest, but Derrick Rose reminded us why he’s on the roster when he came in off the bench: energy, athleticism and blinding quickness.

Although people will talk about Rose’s explosiveness on offense, his efforts on defense are what should have everyone raving over his performance. Along with 12 points in nearly 23 minutes, he collected one steal and blocked two shots. He was also a plus-45 in the plus-minus category (game high), according to FIBA.com.

 

Klay Thompson: A

Against Finland, Klay Thompson did what Klay Thompson does. He shot threes, and he shot them at an extremely efficient rate.

Along with going 4-of-7 from deep, Thompson played well defensively (are you seeing a theme among Team USA’s top performers?). You wouldn’t know it by looking at the box score, but his rotations were quick, and that was the perfect complement to his 70 percent shooting from the field.

 

Rest of Team: B+

Simply put: When your team shoots 59 percent from the field while only allowing its opponents to shoot 28 percent, there aren’t going to be many (if any) bad grades.

Games like this are important for Team USA because it creates cohesion on both ends of the floor. Blowouts allow the entire roster to make an appearance, which is crucial because both chemistry and experience will be more important as the tournament progresses.

Of “the rest,” give Kenneth Faried and Rudy Gay a ton of credit. Faried played above the rim with high energy the whole way, and the two combined for an efficient 8-of-12 shooting. The team didn’t see much out of the bottom of the rotation until garbage time, but the only disappointing surprise was Steph Curry’s 0-of-5 three-point shooting.

 

Coming Up Next:

Team USA’s next contest is against Turkey on Sunday, Aug. 31. Turkey is coming off a 76-73 win over New Zealand.

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Man Dressed as Jesus Attends USA-Finland FIBA Game

The United States is dominating Finland in the teams’ FIBA World Cup matchup today, and it looks like some of the fans in attendance are getting a bit bored.

One man came to the game dressed as Jesus, and as you can see, he was getting pretty tired of the massive blowout.

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What Kobe Bryant Can Learn from Paul Pierce’s Ageless Game

He may be 36 years old and coming off a season fraught with injury, but Kobe Bryant‘s superhuman credentials remain as credible as ever.

Even as his Los Angeles Lakers look to rebound from a 27-55 record, Bryant is attempting a comeback of his own after playing just six games last season.

Chances are the results will be impressive. They usually are when Bryant’s involved. 

But the anticipatory chatter is already cementing a reputation that probably didn’t need any help.

Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Ballard recently spoke with “longtime physical therapist for Kobe Bryant and the Lakers” Judy Seto, and the fallout only serves to further enhance an iconic legacy that—in the eyes of many—ranks as the true heir to Michael Jordan.

Regarding Bryant’s threshold for pain, Seto contended that, “It’s the highest that I’ve ever seen.  He channels his focus so well in terms of just the task at hand. But also when he’s had pain, he can block that out. I mean, I think a good example is when he tore his Achilles, he made those free throws. He blocked it out and focused.”

Those free throws were a reminder that for all of Bryant’s talent and titles, it may be his fortitude that truly sets him apart.

“He’s remarkable,” then-Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said at the time, per ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin. “For him to hit the fouls shots is remarkable. It just didn’t end. You have a greater appreciation to what he wills himself to do.”

It was a historic moment, but there’s little doubt Bryant hopes to avoid repeating it. Going forward, he’s focusing on staying healthy and making the most of his career’s few remaining years.

So it should come as no surprise that the 16-time All-Star is doing his homework.

Ballard separately reports that, “In preparing for this season, Bryant told friends that the player he is analyzing, as an example of adjusting your game as you get older, is fellow 36-year-old Paul PierceThis is part of his goal to become ‘more efficient’ on the court.”

The notion that Bryant has anything to learn from Pierce may sound self-evidently absurd.

Don’t get me wrong—Pierce, now a member of the Washington Wizards after just one season with the Brooklyn Nets, has left an indelible mark on the NBA.

But he’s no Kobe.

And after averaging a career-low 13.5 points last season, Pierce hardly seems like an appropriate role model for Bryant, who—during the 2012-13 campaign—tallied 27.3 points per contest. Pierce has never averaged more than 26.8 points in a season, and that was all the way back in 2005-06.

Still, one would assume Bryant knows best. He’s an unrivaled student of the game, so if he believes Pierce can teach him something, perhaps there’s something to it.

To his credit, Pierce has missed just 19 games combined over the course of the last four season. That’s a strong track record that indicates he’s taken good care of his body and subjected himself to minimal wear and tear late into his career.

It helps that he’s averaged fewer than 35 minutes per game in each of those seasons and as few as just 28 minutes per contest a season ago.

By comparison, Bryant averaged at least 38.5 minutes in both 2011-12 and 2012-13.

Though he almost certainly has the motor to sustain that kind of pace, there’s something to be said for more modest playing time—perhaps even sitting some games out. Selling Bryant on such a proposal may not be easy, but it’s probably the first thing he should take away from Pierce’s enduring health.

The Kansas product has also remained effective largely on account of methodical footwork, up-and-under moves and fall-away jumpers—the kind of savviness that obviates a need for elite athleticism and otherwise reduces the risk of collision or dangerous landings.

As NBCSports.com’s Kurt Helin recently put it, “Pierce‘s gets to the elbows and once there unleashes an old-man-at-the-YMCA game on his opponents, getting off an array of crafty shots that seem to always find the bottom of the net. He’s evolved that part of his game over the years.”

CBSSports.com’s James Herbert used similar language, writing, “The crafty Pierce has adapted about as well as anyone. He has an arsenal of little head-fakes and ball-fakes, and he knows how to get his shot off, even if he can’t create as much space as he used to.”

The common theme?

Pierce is ridiculously “crafty.”

And for that matter, so is Bryant. Even when his athleticism was still without peer, he conjured MJ with dizzying moves on the wing, from the elbow and in the post. Always a deep threat and lethal slasher, it’s been Bryant’s smooth in-between game that makes him virtually impossible to stop.

To that end, it’s probably fair to assume watching video of Pierce won’t translate into some kind of dramatic renaissance in Bryant’s game.

It’s the little things that will make the difference, nuanced tendencies that may add a few options to Bryant’s already robust bag of tricks.

Pierce’s game could be especially instructive in light of the fact that he was never quite as athletic as Bryant. In turn, his techniques reason to be of value for a one-time acrobat suddenly faced with the increasing demands of gravity.

“There are certain things that my body can’t do that I used to be able to do,” Bryant told Ballard. “And you have to be able to deal with those. First you have to be able to figure out what those are. Last year when I came back, I was trying to figure out what changed. And that’s a very hard conversation to have.”

Bryant added, “I’ll be sharper. Much sharper. Much more efficient in areas. I’ll be limited in terms of what you see me do, versus a couple years ago. But very, very methodical, very, very purposeful.”

Maybe he’ll get there with a little help from Paul Pierce.

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Report: Kobe studying Paul Pierce to help adjust his game

Kobe Bryant, like the great athletes before him, study and adapt their games to put them in the best position to be successful. Bryant is now 36, and will likely never have the springs that he once had.  In order to make himself as productive as he can be, Bryant is stealing a page from Michael Jordan, and evolving his game. According to James Herbert of Eye on Basketball, Bryant is studying Paul Pierce’s game to help himself become more efficient as he loses a step. In preparing for this season, Bryant told friends that the player he is analyzing, as an example of adjusting your game as you get older, is fellow 36-year-old Paul Pierce. This is part of his goal to become “more efficient” on the court. Said Bryant, “I’m going to max [my last two years] out too, to do whatever I can. Leave no stone unturned, no water left in the sponge.” All eyes will be on Bryant to see if he’s done, simply a pretty good player, or a guy who’ll become an efficient assassin well into his 40′s.

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Kobe Bryant studying old rival on how to adjust game

Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant is using his old rival as an example of how to become “more efficient” on the court at the age of 36. Bryant, who turned 36 on Aug. 23, is preparing to make his comeback from a knee injury and has been studying Paul Pierce this offseason. From Sports Illustrated’s Chris Ballard: In preparing for this season, Bryant told friends that the player he is analyzing, as an example of adjusting your game as you get older, is fellow 36-year-old Paul Pierce. This is part of his goal to become “more efficient” on the court. Said Bryant, “I’m going to max [my last two years] out too, to do whatever I can. Leave no stone unturned, no water left in the sponge.” 

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Beck/Bucher: Do the Bulls Need Derrick Rose to Change His Game to Win a Title?

Derrick Rose will make his return to the Chicago Bulls this year with high hopes of capturing an NBA title.

Does Rose need to adjust his style of play for the Bulls to go all the way?

Howard Beck and Ric Bucher debate what the young point guard needs to do in the video above. 

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Is Kevin Durant’s shoe deal offer a game changer?

This is a great deal for Durant, but what about Under Armour?

      
 

 

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