By Ailene Voisin
Israel lost to Montenegro earlier today in the EuroBasket 2011 qualifying tournament, but finished as the second-best team and ensured its participation next September in the games in Lithuania. Omri Casspi scored 18 points and collected four rebounds in the loss, and had a decent tournament overall. After last year's abysmal showing in the Euros, the Israelis are elated about being back in the international mix.
On another note, the fatigue/injury factor that has diluted the talent pool at the ongoing World Championships in Istanbul strengthens the case for the international game as a showcase for the younger stars. In other words, let the kids play ... and let Dirk Nowitzki, Manu Ginobili, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, etc., use the offseason to rest their bodies and rehabilitate their injuries. Of course, while the rest of the world values the World Championships, the United States places a greater premium on the Olympics, which means there will be the usual pressure on NBA stars to compete in 2012 in London.
Camelo and the Kings?
If and when the Denver Nuggets commit to a sign-and-trade for Carmelo Anthony, the Kings will thrust themselves into the conversation. Count on it. The Nuggets have offered their all-Star small forward a three-year, $65 million extension, but his intentions are unclear. Is he serious about wanting out? Or just posturing for a sweeter deal? Regardless, the Nuggets front office upheaval doesn't help matters. New GM Masai Ujiri is walking into a mess, and the last thing a new executive wants to do is trade his franchise player, and probably for lesser parts. That said, Joe and Gavin Maloof have been consistent about two things: (1) They are not interested in adding role players to eat up the salary cap space they've finally created; and (2) They are absolutely interested in a game-changer type of player, someone who puts fannies in the seats and affects the won-loss percentage, e.g., a Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony. You can be assured inquiries have been made and discussions will be ongoing.
Competition in Florida
While talking to folks for Sunday's column about rookie Hassan Whiteside, I learned that longtime NBA scout/assistant Brendan Suhr has taken over basketball operations at Central Florida University. (Whiteside's former coaches at Marshall relocated to Central Florida at the end of the 2009-10 season). What makes this interesting is that Suhr, who spent almost a decade on Mike Fratello's staff in Atlanta before joining Chuck Daly in Detroit, was the lead assistant on the Pistons' 1989-90 Championship teams .... headed by Isiah Thomas. All of which means Suhr will be recruiting against his former superstar, currently the head coach at Florida International. At least for now.
Call The Bee's Ailene Voisin, (916) 321-1208.