Surprises and Disappointments of the 2014 FIBA World Cup

Team USA rolled to a gold medal at the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain, dominating from the opening game of the tournament. Who were some of the competition’s surprises and disappointments?

Nate Duncan of Basketball Insiders joins Stephen Nelson to give his picks in the video above.

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What Did the FIBA World Cup Teach Us About Derrick Rose?

Derrick Rose made his return to the court during the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain, helping Team USA to a gold medal. What did the tournament teach Chicago Bulls fans about the status of their young superstar?

Nate Duncan of Basketball Insiders joins Stephen Nelson to offer his take in the video above.

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United States takes home gold at FIBA World Cup

The United States Men’s National Team completed a dominating performance at the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain on Sunday by defeating Serbia 129-92. GOLDEN! @KyrieIrving (26 pts) & @JHarden13 Harden (23 pts) lead USA, which shot 15-30 from 3-point, past Serbia 129-92 in FIBA World Cup. — USA Basketball (@usabasketball) September 14, 2014 As you can see above, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving paced the team with 26 points. The 37-point victory represented the United States’ ninth 20-plus point victory in as many games. The team averaged nearly 105 points per game in the two-week tournament. Irving, who led the team in scoring on Sunday, was named MVP. During the tournament, James Harden led the team in scoring at 14.2 points per game, while Klay Thompson came in second at 12.7 points per outing. It’s the United States second consecutive FIBA World Cub Gold Medal and their 33rd gold in the history of international basketball tournaments, which includes the Olympics. It’s Mike Krzyzewski’s

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How Did FIBA World Cup Win Prepare USA Basketball for 2016 Rio Summer Olympics?

The United States scored a tournament-high 129 points on Sunday, easily outpacing Serbia’s 92 points en route to a gold medal at the FIBA World Cup in Spain. It was the club’s 63rd consecutive victory and secured the team a spot at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. Bleacher Report highlighted the win and Irving’s performance:

Team USA’s latest rout comes on the heels of gold-medal victories at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, the 2010 FIBA World Cup in Istanbul and the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. The faces have changed, but the unrivaled results remain the same.

And with the lessons learned this summer, those results may be remarkably similar come 2016.

Only two members of the 2012 Olympic team joined Team USA this time around, but that didn’t seem to affect the bottom line. Eight Americans scored in double figures on Sunday, and all but one member of the 12-man roster—Derrick Rose—scored in the contest. If this is a sign of things to come, the future of USA Basketball remains in good hands.

Much of the club’s continuity can be attributed to head coach and college basketball legend Mike Krzyzewski, the closest thing to a common denominator in all of USA Basketball’s recently sustained success.

Indeed, the United States took gold this time without a slew of the NBA’s most recognizable names—including LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Russell Westbrook, Paul George and others. One might have expected the Americans to take a step back without some of their most cherished weapons, but that was hardly the case.

In fact, Team USA managed to establish some firsts along the way after remaining undefeated during tournament play. ESPN Stats & Info and SportsCenter shared some historical stats:

Attempting to give credit where it’s due isn’t easy.

This was an ensemble effort drawing on major contributions from Anthony Davis, Kenneth Faried, James Harden, Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry and—especially in the final—Kyrie Irving.

Even DeMarcus Cousins seemed to play with maturity that was—for him—unprecedented, especially against Serbia.

CBSSports.com’s Matt Moore writes:

The real story of the gold medal game, though, should be DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins…came in with Anthony Davis in foul trouble and made a huge impact. He protected the rim, disrupting all sorts of shots, crashed the glass and controlled the game. He also walked away from every brush-up and conflict, never overreacting to fouls or controls.

At the moment, there’s no telling which of those standouts will join the 2016 effort in Rio. Those decisions will be made by USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo in due time.

But the first takeaway from the United States’ adventures in Spain is that Colangelo should have some flexibility when making those decisions. Missing superstars had little impact on this squad’s fortunes, and that could pave the way for a slightly less star-studded affair two years from now.

Colangelo recently told USA Today‘s Sam Amick:

What we talked about (in 2006) was putting an infrastructure in place that could fend off a lot of things that would come your way.

It’s the depth that we have with our national team concept, that we would accept players from that national team, which is a fluid roster of roughly 28 players, a fluid roster that we would delete and add depending on who’s doing what and Select (team) players.

Irving, the latest hero, proves as much.

He was named the tournament MVP after making all six of his three-point attempts on Sunday. Through nine games, the 22-year-old averaged 12.1 points and 3.6 assists per contest—making him one of six players on the team to average double-figure scoring throughout the tournament.

Though the Cleveland Cavaliers point guard began cementing star credentials with MVP honors at the 2014 All-Star Game, he certainly doesn’t boast the kind of veteran or winning pedigree as some of those absentee floor generals—such as Paul or Westbrook. Performances like this one against Serbia will change that before long.

Faried was an even more unexpected difference-maker. The Denver Nuggets forward averaged 12.4 points and 7.8 rebounds in 21.4 minutes per game during tournament play. His unyielding motor translated into 3.9 offensive rebounds per contest and made him a perfect fit for the club’s up-tempo style of play.

I just love to play basketball,” Faried told reporters earlier during tournament play. “Every time I step on the basketball court, you never know it could be your last game, so I like to play my hardest in every game. When you love the game like that it tends to reward you back.” 

That passion for the game catapulted the 24-year-old to the forefront of a roster he might not have made had big men such as Griffin, Love or Aldridge participated this summer.

The other breakout star who likely earned himself a ticket to Rio was Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson.

Thompson averaged 12.7 points per game during FIBA play and converted on 52.3 percent of his field-goal attempts, including 41.5 percent of his team-high 5.9 three-point attempts per contest. To hear him explain his success in a journal entry published by The San Francisco Chronicle courtesy of Rusty Simmons, defense has also played a pivotal role. Thompson wrote in August:

I thought I was competing for a spot on the team from the beginning, because there were so many good wing players. I think I earned it by the way I showed up every day.

I think my shooting ability helped – especially being able to stretch the floor in the international game – but I think my defense was the key. I’ve competed on every possession and proven that I can guard multiple positions. 

These are Krzyzewski types through and through, hard-working players who’ve made names for themselves on a global stage while their respective NBA careers are coming into their own.

Perhaps the biggest revelation from this FIBA World Cup is that the United States boasts a wealth of leadership, even without MVP-caliber talent such as James or Durant on board. 

Colangelo and Krzyzewski should both take something away from that, crafting and coaching the 2016 roster with a profound awareness of just how deep the NBA is. Perhaps it’s time to rely on some motivated young up-and-comers rather than (or in addition to) the league’s most established names.

The ostensible crisis of U.S. leadership has paradoxically served to highlight one of the United States’ strengths: Its seemingly endless supply of top-shelf talent just waiting for an opportunity to shine.

“I like my team a lot,” Krzyzewski told reporters prior to the final. “I trust my team. … We’ve had a lot of interruptions and [these players have] never made any excuses. They should be in this position to play for a world championship.”

Earning that trust may not have happened overnight, but when all was said and done, this team positioned itself to take Rio by storm—with or without LeBron, KD, CP3 and those of their ilk.

There’s a strong case to be made that this was a learning experience all along. 

As CBSSports.com’s Zach Harper put it:

Since Jerry Colangelo overhauled the program following the embarrassment in the 2004 Olympics, USA Basketball has been about continuity, chemistry and growth with the youth of the roster becoming the stars of international basketball.

The FIBA World Championship, which has now become the FIBA World Cup, is the perfect situation to foster that growth with the young players and help them adapt to the attitude and professionalism expected of USA Basketball.

From that perspective, mission accomplished.

Here’s to hoping the guys who proved themselves in Spain aren’t crowded out by USA Basketball’s usual suspects in 2016. Some of those larger-than-life names will return to the fold, but we shouldn’t forget the lesser names who picked up their slack in a bid to win FIBA gold.

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Redhot Irving, Harden Lead Team USA in Rout of Serbia to Win Gold at FIBA World Cup

Team USA captured the gold medal in the FIBA Basketball World Cup, making quick work of Serbia, 129-92. Serbia led the game by eight points midway through the first quarter. Then Kyrie Irving and James Harden took over. The pair lit up the Serbs for 26 and 23 points, respectively. They also combined for just two turnovers. USA Basketball dominated the entire tournament, winning all nine games by a margin of 20 points or more.     The post Redhot Irving, Harden Lead Team USA in Rout of Serbia to Win Gold at FIBA World Cup appeared first on Basketball Bicker.

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Kyrie Irving, Kenneth Faried Named to FIBA Basketball World Cup All-Tournament Team

Team USA’s Kyrie Irving and Kenneth Faried earned All-Tournament Team honors of the FIBA Basketball World Cup on Sunday after shining throughout the nine-game event. The two Americans were joined by Pau Gasol of Spain, Nicolas Batum of France, and Milos Teodosic of Serbia. [ESPN NBA] The post Kyrie Irving, Kenneth Faried Named to FIBA Basketball World Cup All-Tournament Team appeared first on Basketball Bicker.

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Is Kyrie Irving Now the Face of Team USA After FIBA World Cup MVP Performance?

So much of the talk during Team USA’s pre-FIBA training camp concerned how head coach Mike Krzyzewski would construct a team perfectly suited to stop Spain’s formidable frontcourt for when—not if—the two sides met in the final.

But with upstart Serbia crashing the final in Spain’s stead, it was Kyrie Irving who proved he’s perfectly suited to become the face of Team USA’s future.

Irving was electric in Sunday’s gold-medal game, tallying 26 points on 10-of-13 shooting (including a perfect 6-of-6 from distance) in a 129-92 blowout win, helping Team USA secure its fourth-straight first-place finish in international competition.

The performance earned Irving honors as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, capping off a year in which the 22-year-old star captured the NBA All-Star Game’s MVP award and signed a five-year, $90 million extension with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

After falling behind 15-7 in the early going, Irving and backcourt mate James Harden took control, scoring 13 of their team’s next 15 points en route to a 35-21 first-quarter lead from which Serbia would never recover.

Harden was equally unguardable, registering 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the floor on a night when eight Team USA players finished in double figures.

Playing without Team USA staples LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony, Krzyzewski was forced to rely instead on a kind of leadership-by-committee.

Irving’s emergence might change that equation.

To be sure, there were plenty for whom FIBA will surely serve as a springboard to stardom, with Kenneth Faried and Anthony Davis—key to Krzyzewski’s strategy of employing disruptive, hyper-athletic defenders in the frontcourt—being the most notable examples.

Irving, however, represents something even more crucial: a young, explosive floor general tailor-made for the international game.

For an NBA player who’s struggled at times with shot selection and decision-making, Irving was a paragon of poise during Team USA’s golden run, registering 50 percent or more from the floor over the course of the tournament and finishing with an astonishing 60.9 percent clip from three-point range.

That’s music to James, Kevin Love and the rest of the Cavaliers’ ears, who are already seen by many as the undisputed favorites heading into the 2014-15 NBA season.

To Team USA, it’s merely the opening salvo to what could be a years-long masterpiece by its new backcourt maestro.

Indeed, even in the wake of Paul George’s gruesome injury—a tragedy that sparked heated debate within NBA circles about the costs and benefits of players participating in international competition—Cavs general manager David Griffin was quick to acknowledge the bona fide boon of one of his best players testing his talents on a global stage.

“Kyrie Irving’s getting the most important game action of his life right now,” Griffin recently told the Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Chris Fedor. “He’s getting better literally every day. He showed up trying to make that team and he appears to be at least the part-time starter now. He’s earning his stripes when it matters. It’s going to be enormously valuable to us.”

Of course, given the NBA’s wealth of point guard talent, Irving’s place is by no means guaranteed. Just ask Derrick Rose, whose much-publicized FIBA return was beset by disappointing showings and growing concerns over the 25-year-old’s long-term effectiveness.

Meanwhile, Damian Lillard and John Wall—two of Krzyzewski’s final training camp cuts—are sure to have their voices heard in the years ahead.

Good thing, then, that Irving is about to receive a basketball education of a different sort: playing understudy to two of the game’s best basketball minds.

Between James and new head coach David Blatt—himself a veteran of the international circuit—Cleveland has a chance to rewrite the offensive record books. And while James is sure to remain in his role as five-tool playmaker, it’ll be Irving whose game stands to benefit the most.

That, in turn, only solidifies Irving’s hold on Team USA’s reins—especially if James and Durant bowing out of FIBA portends an end to their respective gold-medal gambits.

In a framework that prioritizes guard play, Irving’s skill set—a point guard’s handle with a shooting guard’s touch—is the kind of asset around which Team USA president Jerry Colangelo can comfortably build.

With the Brazil Olympics a mere two years away, Team USA is sure to keep one eye trained squarely on Irving, to gauge whether playing alongside James and Love helps or hinders his growth and development.

If his performance at FIBA is any kind of hardwood harbinger, however, Irving is fast figuring out the difference between being a team’s most statistically explosive player and its most steadily valuable.

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Team USA takes gold at FIBA World Cup

USA Basketball is alive and well and it showed as they took down Serbia 129-92 to win the 2014 FIBA World Cup Championship.

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Redhot Irving, Harden Lead Team USA in Route of Serbia to Win Gold at FIBA World Cup

Team USA captured the gold medal in the FIBA Basketball World Cup, making quick work of Serbia, 129-92. Serbia led the game by eight points midway through the first quarter. Then Kyrie Irving and James Harden took over. The pair lit up the Serbs for 26 and 23 points, respectively. They also combined for just two turnovers. USA Basketball dominated the entire tournament, winning all nine games by a margin of 20 points or more.     The post Redhot Irving, Harden Lead Team USA in Route of Serbia to Win Gold at FIBA World Cup appeared first on Basketball Bicker.

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Kyrie Irving Named MVP of FIBA Basketball World Cup

Cleveland Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving was named Most Valuable Player of the FIBA Basketball World Cup on Sunday, following a dominant effort in Team USA’s gold medal win against Serbia. Irving sparked Team USA with 26 points on 10-of-13 shooting (6-of-6 from three), four assists and a block. For the tournament, LeBron James’ new running mate averaged 12 points on 56 percent shooting, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals. The post Kyrie Irving Named MVP of FIBA Basketball World Cup appeared first on Basketball Bicker.

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