I watched the whole FIBA exhibition game between Spain and the US this Sunday. It was sloppy and exciting, like exhibitionism is supposed to be. The US eventually won by two on the strength of a nice last few possessions by Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant and a timely zone defense implemented by the coaching staff. Warm-up games don’t generally teach us a lot about tactics or team chemistry, but there were some interesting opportunities to scout the participants.
First thing’s first, let’s get Durant out of the way. He’s amazing. I haven’t seen such a natural scoring machine since… hmm… this is a good set up… shouldn’t waste it… Tiger Woods? Wilt Chamberlain? Let’s throw this back to an old Chicago scoring legend… Hugh Hefner.The next most interesting player was probably Ricky Rubio. Unfortunately he won’t be drawing any comparisons to pornography barons. For this game anyway he was basically the same talented but undisciplined passing machine that he was in the Olympics. He draws comparisons to Jason Kidd because of his size and his court vision, but he has a flair for the spectacular over the simple (all his passes are one-handed usually made half a step early. They look cool but they must scare his coaches to death), and his passes don’t have the precision of Kidd’s. I really enjoy watching him play and definitely see what has NBA general managers so excited, but right now he’s more young Jason Williams (with more size and less handle) than young Jason Kidd.
Gasol the Lesser (Marc) was very good. He did a great job on the boards, clogging the paint, and scoring down low. His righty hook and his turnaround jumper were basically unstoppable by the USA big men.
America’s lack of size worries were not overstated. Odom and Chandler both had trouble staying away from fouls. They played well, particularly Odom, who was able to use his superior ball-handling and quickness from he power position to make plays on multiple occasions, but they were clearly outmatched in size at the other end.
Rudy Fernandez, currently whining his way out of Portland for some reason, played as poorly as I’ve ever seen. He was a walking turnover who couldn’t hit a shot. It was like watching Mo Williams in the playoffs.
After Gasol, Juan Carlos Navarro and Jose Calderon were the best players for Spain. Navarro’s athleticism was impressive, as was his aggressiveness, and Calderon displayed his typical good judgment all over the floor and even played some tough defense.
Andre Igudala really shined in a do-it-all role at the small forward. His shooting touch wasn’t there, but he did everything else really well. As a team the US squad moves the ball well, but he is a big key because he runs the court and gets to the rim with power. Rose played a lot of minutes and closed the game very well. Billups, Gay, Curry, and Gordon also participated and will receive certificates at the end of camp.