There is a big game starting shortly. The United States vs. Argentina in the semifinals of the mighty Beijing Olympics. The winner gets to play for national glory and gold medals. The loser gets to enjoy being called "the Redeem Team" (again, if it's the USA) at the World Championships in 2010.
At the same time, I usually spend the morning reading and putting together the bullets. Then it struck me: Why not do both at once? What could be simpler? Watch a game, blog about it, and meanwhile spend the whole time furiously reading and posting links to all the best stuff out there.
This could be a perfectly terrible idea. Maybe I'll miss all the big plays and the big stories. Who knows. I'm pretty sure it's new and exciting, though.
One little note: I promise to make the bullets -- the parts of this post that are not about in the game -- look like bullets, so you can tell them apart from everything else. Here goes ...
Some video of one of the core Argentina players who may not be familiar to NBA fans: Pablo Prigioni. He's 6-4, 195, and 31 years old. A season ago he led the EuroLeague in assists, playing for Tau Ceramica.
More details to come, but Spain managed to squeak past tough Lithuania in the other semifinal, and thus await the winner of this game.
Shaquille O'Neal has shown his face in Phoenix. A look at which Suns have already shown up for training.
The Washington Post's Michael Lee on Argentina: "Ginobili appears to have recovered from the sore ankle that limited him during the San Antonio Spurs' playoff run. And while Argentina has several other current and former NBA players on the team -- Andres Nocioni, Fabricio Oberto, Luis Scola and Carlos Delfino -- its team is much different. [Pepe] Sanchez and Walter Herrmann retired from the national team, limiting Argentina's depth. But it has won five in a row since losing its debut in the Olympics against Lithuania."
The teams are warming up now. Layup lines. Plenty of Team USA fans have been in touch to tell me they are nervous. There is the feeling the US could be due for a bad game. That could totally happen. But I can't being myself to get too worried. I fully expect the USA to play well, and I suspect that by the end of the third quarter, we'll all be remarking that Argentina's wing players look tired, undersized, and overworked trying to keep up with the bigger, faster and stronger American wings who will be playing short minutes.
In the first couple of minutes, the U.S. looks tough in the paint on both ends. Andres Nocioni is hurt, which is miserable for an Argentina team lacking depth. Manu Ginobili has clearly perfected the "I haven't shaved in three days" look.
Oh dear. Luis Scola took it strong, and Dwight Howard met him stronger. Big Luis looked tiny for a second. It's like we could see his ego right then. He got the bucket moments later, though, so we'll have to consider Scola "plucky."
Just heard from some people trying to watch this on TV, and heard that they are seeing table tennis right now? Could that be so? I'm watching online, thankfully.
Chris Bosh, Chris Paul, and Dwyane Wade ... together they could the foundation of the best team in the NBA. They are coming in off the bench together. Nice roster.
David Berri of the Wages of Wins on the Spurs: "... the Spurs are good enough to give their fans hope. And fans of this team should enjoy this sense of hope while they can. Again, the key players are Duncan, Ginobili, Parker, and now Oberto. Although Parker is only 26, the other three members of the quartet are now on the wrong side of 30. As we saw with Finley, age tends to lead to less production. With less production, San Antonio will eventually start to lose more frequently. And no amount of coaching or team attitude (something people often credit for the Spurs success) is going to change this fact." Berri is very high on departed Spur Brent Barry.
Chris Paul does his referee mental jujitsu and gets a second foul on Manu, which hurts. Five fouls and you're benched. Manu looks at the referee and screams: "Did you see how perfect my stubble is! You can't bench this!"
Not the start Argentina (or the Spurs) wanted. Turnovers, misses, fouls ... and now Manu Ginobili limping to the bench.
Kobe's two choices on the break: Go one on one, or leave it for one of two superstar wide-open trailers to dunk with room. Two points, and one missed opportunity to try to shed the selfish tag, for Kobe.
Andres Nocioni, hurt, trying to make something happen in Manu's absence, has had three of four of the greatest plays of this game, and none was better than his block of Kobe Bryant just now. It might be too little too late (although Argentina is making a little push) but if Argentina somehow wins, they should build gold statues of Nocioni in Buenos Aires.
Dan Steinberg of the DC Sports Bog with important news from Beijing: "I've discovered a new way to annoy the relentlessly helpful volunteers: keep one shoe untied. It drives them batty. They emerge out of every crevice of the building to tell you about your urgent shoelace problem. I just wave and keep on risking potential bodily catastrophe."
Nate Jones heard something on the internet broadcast earlier that I missed. Manu Ginobili was shooting free throws, and LeBron was chatting away. Kobe had been talking to the opponents in Spanish, and LeBron said something or other to Kobe and then added "make sure they understand that." The idea being, as Nate understood it, that Bryant was to translate some trash talk for James. Hilarious. UPDATE: Post-game, Jones e-mails: "It was actually at the 29:50 mark on the NBC online replay (Chris Bosh is shooting free throws). And after being able to replay it and listen, I realize that it was Kobe doing all the trash talking in Spanish to Scola and LeBron telling Kobe that was enough trash talking and to play ball. While watching it live, I heard LeBron talking to Kobe and Kobe's voice talking to Scola in Spanish and then a voice (which I thought was LeBron's) say 'make sure he understand that.' But it was actually Kobe telling Scola: 'Make sure you understand this!' Not as funny, but still a funny sequence."
OK, it's 39-27 in the second quarter. The gap has closed somewhat. All signs point to a great day for the U.S. but for the fact that there is a wounded dog clinging to their pantleg that have not yet been able to shake free. Let them hang on too long, and they get confident.
Argentina is not a big zone team, but they're trying it now and getting some decent results. That gets them Michael Redd on the floor, in place of a more effective defender and distributor, and it gets them some long-range Kobe Bryant bombs instead of LeBron James and his freight train of destruction at the rim.
Game on. The l
ead is down to eight with a minute left in the half. Somewhere Doug Collins is talking about how the best teams end quarters well.
The U.S. offense right now is called "You do something." And Kobe says ... OK!
Lead to six briefly, but Argentina forced a miserably long three in the closing moments, before Carmelo Anthony got a fortunate call releasing a 3. Three free throws later, the U.S. is up nine at the half, and this is not one of those games where Team USA is rolling. At the moment, it's the tight game which everyone said might rattle the United States.
Argentina is hanging within nine points while shooting just two of 10 from the 3-point line. The U.S. has made six of 20. Argentina has also endured 12 turnovers. Argentina is outrebounding the Redeem Team 19-17. If 'Melo doesn't get that call at the end of the half, and Argentina shoots closer to their average from downtown and hits two more threes, this is a tie game.
All that said, the U.S. can, and I suspect will, play much better in the second half.
Another tip for aspiring sportswriters with blogs: Get people talking.
Among those stealthily using the Olympics to promote a foreign agenda: U.S.-based Christian missionaries, who say they are having some success eluding authorities and inspiring conversions
Mihir Bose of the BBC: "Many in the Olympic movement feel that if the 20th century was Europe and America's great century of sport, then the 21st century might belong to China and Asia. While China's presentation at many of the sporting venues was a pale copy of what you might get in the NBA or at a baseball game, the Chinese have been determined throughout the last two weeks to show they can do sport like the West. And there can be no doubt that the Beijing Olympics have done just that."
Good start to the second half for the Americans, who are passing and owning the paint again. Carmelo Anthony did not endear himself to the crowd with some kind of shove/punch to Luis Scola out of anger and frustration.
Things definitely getting heated. I wish I had Tivo right now. Pretty sure that was a Oberto rake across Dwight Howard's face that had all of Howard's teammates escorting him away. Now he's FIRED UP.
Matt of Basketbawful noticed a youngster buying a whole bunch of that 5-Hour Energy stuff, which he told his mom he needed for his little league games. Matt's thought: "You know, when I was 11, I had 5-hour Energy, too. It was called puberty."
After some lovely passing, the U.S. was about to complete an alley-oop dunk that would have been a serious blow to Argentina. But Carlos Delfino -- he has made a lot of big plays -- picked off the open-court lob. 15-point game at the moment. Terrier's teeth still embedded in the pant leg.
Preparing, mentally, to perform. No, Usian Bolt is not nuts; experts say it's smart for every athlete to prepare in their own way.
What's going on with Shaun Livingston? Lottery pick point guard with good size, coming off a wicked injury. Any takers?
Carmelo Anthony, surrounded by three defenders, puts the ball on the floor and dribbles into a fourth. Then he misses.
14-point game with one quarter left. Yes, this looks like this will be a U.S. win. No, it does not look like this game will be, at any point, easy.
LeBron James nails a corner 3 to put the U.S. up by 18 with a little under nine left. I entertain the notion that I might be able to run out for a cup of coffee and return without missing much. Quinteros nails a corner 3 of his own in response. I will without that caffeine, even though James later got two back.
In the timeout, you can hear Coach Krzyzewski trying to settle his team's emotional state.
Tempo, by the way, has been slower than other Team USA games. Somehow, this injured team has kept this team a little slower.
The only US players with more than 20 minutes of PT right now: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kobe Bryant. Scola is leading all scorers with 22, and has nine rebounds. Argentina, as a team, has a measly seven assists.
The U.S. will win this one -- up 17 with two minutes left -- but credit Argentina with a seriously impressive performance. Manu Ginobili sits for most of it, and Nocioni is banged up ... but they made it a dogfight, got Scola going (26 and 11 and counting), made nothing easy, slowed things down, and got the Redeem Team a little rattled. Spain is taking notes.
Final score 101-81. I'd say Team USA is halfway redeemed -- by making it to the final game which has eluded them in the last three major international tournaments. This is a big burden removed. All that's left is beating the Spanish team they manhandled in qualifying. It's entirely possible that Spain (a team that seemed to stop competing once Team USA got a decent lead) will play much better, and may have even saved some tricks for the big contest. But you have to be feeling good right now if you're Coach Krzyzewski. The vast majority of the variables have been removed. Now it's down to one game, and your team is (pretty) focused and healthy.