Well, I really have very little to say today about the state of basketball in our country. Apparently, the guys you see above can beat our millionaires with their picket fence/pick and roll offense. Our $100 million players cannot figure out the pick and roll.
Greece pounds us …
Greece used a sizzling stretch of shooting across the middle two quarters to turn a 12-point deficit into a 14-point lead, and beat the Americans 101-95 Friday in the semifinals of the FIBA World Championship.
"To lose any game is a shock to us," U.S. star Carmelo Anthony said. "We came in with the mentality to win the game and the gold medal."
Instead, the best Anthony can do now is add another bronze to his collection.
Greece (8-0) can earn a world title to go with the European championship it won in 2005 with a victory over Spain in the gold medal game Sunday. Spain (8-0) beat Argentina 75-74 on Friday night.
"They played like a champion plays," U.S. forward Shane Battier said of Greece.
The Americans will have to wait at least two more years to remember what that feels like.
Done in again by their inept 3-point shooting -- and they weren't much better from the foul line -- the Americans will fall short of a championship in a major international tournament for the third straight time since winning gold at the 2000 Olympics.
The Greeks -- with no current NBA players on their roster -- danced in a circle at halfcourt after their victory.
"Big players play big games," said guard Theodoros Papaloukas, the MVP of the European final who had 12 assists Friday. "And today I think we played very good."
The U.S. (7-1) will return to the court Saturday against Argentina, hoping to match the bronze medal it left Athens with in 2004.
Chris Sheridan saw this coming …
I know the top two questions folks back home in the United States are going to be asking once I get back: How could this happen? Who is to blame?
To the first question, I'll answer this: It's been happening for more than four years now, folks, and it's been happening because Team USA keeps changing its roster, never developing the chemistry and familiarity that the best teams from other parts of the world have developed as their greatest strength. The Greeks had two or three plays that worked over and over and over again, just like Argentina's plays worked two years ago in Athens, and Team USA didn't have the cohesion a team needs to play the type of halfcourt defense required to win in these kinds of tournaments. The second and third quarters of Greece's 101-95 victory Friday were absolutely stunning to behold. I'd call it a layup drill, except for the fact that there were enough wide-open looks being converted that it broke up the monotony of the pick-and-roll exploitation the Greeks were pulling on the Americans.
The pick-and-roll is not a hard play to defend, but these guys simply couldn't. Anybody with two eyes could see that Greece guard Theodoros Papaloukas liked to drive to his left, but not once did any of the Americans force him right.
Greece was a team that came in averaging only 81.4 points in this tournament, yet the Americans surrendered 101 and allowed them to shoot an astonishing 63 percent from the field, 71 percent from 2-point range.
Want to know why? Mostly it's because the Greeks have been playing together long enough to have a repertoire of plays that they know will work, and once they saw they were working to perfection, they stuck with them time after time after time after time.
The Americans were helpless to stop them.
The United States hadn't been the best in the world for six years now, and they won't have a chance to reclaim that spot for another two years when the Beijing Olympics roll around. Maybe by then the enormity of what's going on in international basketball will finally sink in. This is a huge, huge story, and folks back home either can't comprehend it or refuse to comprehend it. You're not going to read much about this loss in USA Today, The New York Times, the Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, the Dallas Morning-News or almost any of the other major metropolitan newspapers who somehow decided what's been happening to USA Basketball over nearly a half-decade was not worthy of their coverage. None of them showed up, because they just don't get it the same way that 90 percent of my e-mailers don't get it.
The basketball world has changed, folks, and Americans have fallen behind. I feel like I'm yelling into the wind when I keep saying how and why it's been happening, but maybe now folks back home will start to understand.
There's a bright side to this loss, believe it or not, and it's this: Colangelo realizes that there is no quick fix to this slippage, that it'll only get fixed by building a program and keeping a team together for three years.
The Americans now must go to Venezuela next summer to qualify for the Olympics, and they'll grow as a team there just as they did here, learning lessons along the way that they never imagined they'd have to learn. Lesson No. 1 moving forward is how to defend the pick-and-roll. Lesson No. 2 is to wake up to the reality that there's a huge gap between the best teams in the world and the rest of the pack. All those victories over the likes of China, Italy, Puerto Rico, Australia, Senegal and Slovenia don't mean much now, do they?
In other news, Vanderslice gives us a segment:
Clarence Hill …
Receiver Terrell Owens made his much-anticipated Cowboys debut at Texas Stadium in Thursday's 10-10 overtime tie with Minnesota, but his presence was overshadowed by a disappointing performance from veteran kicker Mike Vanderjagt and concern for a dinged Drew Bledsoe.
Vanderjagt missed field-goal attempts of 33 and 32 yards in overtime. It was his first game since the preseason opener in Seattle. He missed the past two games because of a strained groin.
JJ Taylor …
"We can't do the things we did tonight and win games," Parcells said. "We missed two point-blank field goals. We have to make those."
Vanderjagt, who signed a three-year deal worth $5.4 million that included a $2.5 million signing bonus in the off-season, missed wide right from 33 yards with 11:33 left in overtime. He missed a 32-yard attempt wide right with two seconds left.
"To be honest with you, I have no idea," Vanderjagt said of the missed kicks. "
Obviously, it was horrible ... not enough work, I guess. But a 32-yard field goal in the middle of the field? Put it on me."
After the second miss, Parcells glared at Vanderjagt as he walked by. As Vanderjagt stood on the sideline, safety Roy Williams said a few words to him. Then running back Julius Jones spoke to him. Then tight end Jason Witten.
The players know they will need Vanderjagt to win an important game at some point.
Vanderjagt, the most accurate kicker in NFL history, made 23 of 25 field goal attempts last season, although he did miss a 46-yard field goal with 17 seconds left that would've tied the score in the AFC divisional playoff game against Pittsburgh.
He was supposed to provide comfort for Parcells and owner Jerry Jones after the Cowboys lost three games last season, in part, because of poor field goal kicking.
I know you are not aware of this; but he has missed another kick. Is this his version of the Buckner play? Is his head now screwed up beyond repair?
I have never met Jimmy Burch, but heading into my 9th football season in Texas, there is no writer who I scramble to read faster on all things college football
Big 12 South Preview …
And his 5 games of the year …
Chelsea and Arsenal finally get their deal done as the transfer window closes …
Arsenal and Chelsea last night agreed a swap deal that would take Ashley Cole to Stamford Bridge in exchange for William Gallas and about £5m. Both players agreed personal terms and passed medicals and papers were lodged with the Premier League as the transfer window shut, though neither club confirmed the deal at that point with a formal announcement.
A dramatic end seemed in sight, however, to a tortuous saga after both clubs compromised their negotiating positions during talks to push through a transfer. Arsenal were also busy elsewhere, tying up the signing of Brazil's Julio Baptista on a year's loan from Real Madrid and sending José Antonio Reyes in the opposite direction on an identical basis.
Terrell Being Terrell
I know it is a complete coincidence, but, Crossover opens today in our country where we can’t defend the pick and roll. But, boy, can we dunk cool.
Sorry, this is pretty short today. But the basketball game this morning took the wind out of my blogging sails…