July 14, 2010

Perhaps it's not the biggest story to come out of the world of hoops this past fortnight, but one of the ramifications of the LeBron James signing last week is the decision by each of the twelve players on the gold-medal winning 2008 Olympic basketball team to take a powder in this year's 2010 FIBA Championships. The tournament, to be played in Turkey starting in late-August, has always been the sickly step-child of the Olympics, although the participation of a number of key players on the 2006 bronze medalists, including James, current Heat-mates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, as well as Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony, presaged their commitment to the national team in the run-up to Beijing. I suppose nothing would put a damper on the South Florida hype more than losing James or Wade (Bosh, with his two playoff appearances in seven years, strikes me more as the Larry Fine of the trio) to a season-ending injury chasing a loose ball against Tunisia.

Coach K will still have notables like Chauncey Billups, Rudy Gay, Amar'e Stoudemire, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose at his disposal, which should provide a stronger, younger nucleus for London in 2012. Moreover, since the US has not won the title since 1994, in spite of having access to NBA talent (the 2002 team, playing at home in Indianapolis, finished sixth, in spite of having Paul Pierce, Jermaine O'Neal, Baron Davis, Ben Wallace, and Michael Finley on the roster), any sort of victory that doesn't rely on having Kobe Bryant (injured) carry the load again will be appreciated.

July 12, 2010

World Cup Final--Spain 1, Netherlands 0: It took 117 minutes, but Spain finally overcame the Orange-clad Stormtroopers to win their first World Cup. Don't believe me? Ask Johann Cruyff (website in Spanish):
Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff has launched a scathing attack on Netherlands' display in the World Cup final, deriding it as "anti-football".

The Dutch received nine yellow cards, and a red card for Johnny Heitinga, as they lost 1-0 to Spain in South Africa.

"Sadly, they played very dirty," Cruyff told Spanish newspaper El Periodico.

"This ugly, vulgar, hard, hermetic, hardly eye-catching, hardly football style... If with this they got satisfaction, fine, but they lost."


Cruyff, along with many others, believed Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong were lucky not to be sent off before half-time, Van Bommel for a tackle from behind on Iniesta and De Jong for kicking Xabi Alonso in the chest.

"They should have been down to nine immediately, then they made two [such] ugly and hard tackles that even I felt the damage," said the 63-year-old Cruyff.

"It hurts me that Holland chose an ugly path to aim for the title."
Spain may well be the most unexplosive, least feared team to win the World Cup since England in 1966. Winning four consecutive games by a score of one to nil will do that to your reputation, as well as an offense that achieved the dubious distinction of scoring eight goals in the entire tournament, the fewest of any champion in the tournament's history. Which isn't to suggest that Spain's title was undeserved, since there was nothing flukish about any of their wins; this was definitely not your father's Spanish team, the Cleveland Cavaliers of soccer. But as the Swiss showed in the opener, Spain was a very beatable team, and most of the squads that participated in this World Cup, including the U.S. and Mexico, would not have needed to elevate their game that much to match what Switzerland did.