During Team USA's training sessions in Las Vegas, player personnel director (and well-known international scout) Tony Ronzone broke down the competition, and he predicted that Spain would present the USA with its toughtest competition. In order, he ranked Lithuania, defending Olympic champion Argentina, and then Greece, the team that shocked Mike Krzyzewski's team in the 2006 World Championships in Japan.
Given what we've seen thus far from the Americans - and the obvious motivational factors going into Thursday's rematch - I suspect Kobe & Co. will defeat the slick-shooting Greeks by 30 or 40 points, and as Ronzone indicated, have a more competitive game against Spain.
I always like Argentina because of their ball movement, outside shooting and team chemistry, but his denials to the contrary, I find it hard to believe that Manu Ginobili's injured ankle is completely healed. My San Antonio sources tell me that Gregg Popovich urged Ginobili to skip the Games, knowing all along that his star would be unable to resist the pressure to participate when he returned home after the season.
Shutting it down
See what happens when you go on vacation? While I was driving somewhere between Bend, Oregon, and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, I received a call from my boss, informing me of the news regarding Ron Artest. I will address the trade more extensively when the deal is finalized later this week, but my initial thoughts were these: (1) a trade was inevitable, and probably before training camp; (2) the Houston Rockets were among the logical trading partners, mainly because general managers are similar to most people - they tend to deal with colleagues they are most comfortable and familiar with, and Geoff Petrie's relationship with Rick Adelman should have been the first clue that a swap was likely; (3) it will be interesting to see whether Artest truly accepts his role as a third scoring option behind Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming and, in fact, regains his defensive intensity; and (4) if Donte Greene plays at the level he did during the Summer League in Las Vegas, and Petrie plucks another gem next summer (or uses the pick in another trade), then I like the trade a lot. I appreciate Lamar Odom's versatility, but if you are going to rebuild, you might as well go with youth.
Bad for the longterm health
Watching Yao Ming carrying the flag for his native China during the Opening Ceremonies, I thought I detected a slight limp. Not a good sign. Yao missed the final months of the NBA season with a stress fracture in his left foot, and his availability for these Olympics was in jeopardy for a while. The question is, what will be the effect on his upcoming Rockets season? Already, at age 27, the genial center has suffered significant injuries to his knees, feet and toes. And you thoughts the Rockets had cause to worry about Artest ....