While 4 guys from Oklahoma City played in the gold medal game, including the tremendous Kevin Durant with 30 points, the Minnesota Timberwolves had 3 huge performances today, with big efforts from Kevin Love, Andrei Kirilenko, and Alexey Shved, who hit a game-breaking 3 in the closing minute to win the bronze for Russia. A fourth guy had a huge impact by not playing, as Spain really could have used the injured Ricky Rubio, a point guard who doesn’t turn the ball over. The T-Wolves are loaded with guys who play for their national teams: Barea and Pekovic are on their national teams, they just didn’t make the Olympics. Obviously, if I was a GM, I’d rather have OKC’s big 4, the Lakers and Spurs big 2 (ignoring their other Frenchman, Diaw), or even Miami’s big 1….But give props to the T-Wolves b/c they’ll keep the international Olympic flavor going all year, and should be an exciting and dangerous 6th seed come playoff time in the West.
Of course, leave it to Bill Simmons to rain on my Shved parade:
“MOST INTERESTING PLAYER I HADN’T SEEN BEFORE: Russia’s Alexey Shved (another Minnesota signing) plays like the illegitimate son of Brent Barry and Rudy Fernandez, only with Ricky Rubio’s hair. You’re not gonna believe this based on that description, but he can’t guard anyone, looks like he doesn’t totally have a position (he’s a good ballhandler who isn’t really a point guard), and definitely isn’t strong enough for the NBA … although he’s perfected the “I can’t believe I just missed that wide-open three” sulky stomp back to the other end. We’ve been down this road with these super-fun international players before — they look appealing in tournaments like this one, then they get thrown into the NBA and warts start popping up left and right. So who knows?”
Oh, and I was going to say something in all of this about the Celtics. It’s hard to bring up the C’s here because there weren’t any playing in the Olympics. The closest we got was Doc Rivers, the nicest man in basketball (or is it Doug Collins?), talking to the guy who used to be the co-anchor with Keith Olberman on ESPN. But my thought about the C’s: is there any team that’s more of a group of NBA “outsiders” right now than the C’s? They were more involved in NBA elite affairs last year, when Paul, KG, and Ray were all spokesmen for the united labor front against the owners. But, not only are they left out of the kind of agency circuit that Carmelo, LeBron, and Chris Broussard belong to (if confused, see a few posts down), they also are not a part of the clubbiness that has become elite level NBA basketball. You can see how much all these stars seem to like each other, the ones gathered on the olympic team. You know who seems totally outside of all that? Rajon Rondo. Who else? Paul Pierce. KG is more involved, but he doesn’t make many friends–mocking LeBron (as did Rajon and Paul during their series), and telling Dwight Howard (courtesy Adrian Wojnarowski) that he should paint his face because he’s a clown. KG is too old school for these guys, and I’m guessing they are either scared of him, or put off by him. The addition of Jason Terry isn’t going to help either.