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Today at the Olympics: Gold medal hoops, Closing Ceremonies

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff August 12, 2012 07:05 AM

LONDON -- Welcome to Day 17 of competition, the final day of the London Games (already?) and one with a couple of highly anticipated events on the schedule. Medals will be awarded in 10 events, including the men's marathon, but this day belongs to basketball more than any other.

Sunday's must-see event: Spain has never beaten the US men's basketball team in 10 previous Olympic meetings, but they have at least a puncher's chance Sunday afternoon against LeBron James and his supporting cast of fellow superstars. If the US has a relative weakness, it is inside play, with only Tyson Chandler serving as a legitimate center on the roster. Spain features the Gasol brothers, efficient Pau and bruising Marc, and if both play to the peak of their abilities, at the very least Spain could make it interesting.

Also worth watching: The Closing Ceremonies, despite the apparent involvement of the Spice Girls. What, Wham! could not be reunited in time? (Actually, George Michael is expected to perform.) It will be difficult to match the standard set by the thrilling Opening Ceremonies, masterminded and executed by acclaimed film director Danny Boyle, but the Brits are promising a "cheesy and cheeky'' conclusion. Did I mention that the Pet Shop Boys are also part of the festivities?

Saturday's big story: Yup, he's cocky. But he's the good kind of showboat, because Usain Bolt gives the crowd -- and here in London, it is a universally adoring one -- a show, and then he backs up his boasts and then some. Last night, he put the final exclamation point on his transcendent, three-gold-medal performance here, running the anchor leg of Jamaica's record-shattering 4x100 relay. Who cares what starched old Jacques Rogge thinks? Bolt is a legend in his own time. So what if he'll tell you so?

Tweet of the day: “Who would come watch @usainbolt play cricket for the Melb Stars in 2012 Should I continue chatting to him & try and make it happen?" -- @shanewarne, an Australian cricket legend who may give Bolt a shot in that sport.

I'll be back later with live updates from the Closing Ceremonies, but in advance, thanks for reading, everyone. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. The gap has been minded.

Today at the Olympics: Bolt's last race, women's basketball gold

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff August 11, 2012 07:34 AM

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LONDON -- Welcome to Day 16 of competition, the penultimate day of the London Games and yet one of the biggest days in terms of total medals being awarded. Fifteen different sports will distribute gold, silver and bronze Saturday, including eight in athletics alone.

Saturday's must-see event: Bolt. There's probably no need to elaborate beyond the most famous and appropriate surname of these Games, but perhaps a reminder is needed that the 4x100-meter relay will not only be Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt's final event of London, but there's a chance it's the 27-year-old's final Olympic appearance. He is expected to run the anchor leg for favored Jamaica. One more gold and one more electric moment seems like something he'll be able to conjure up.

Also worth watching: The official term for it is the women's Olympic basketball gold medal game. I prefer calling it the UConn Alumni Game better. Team USA, which is coached by Geno Auriemma and features four Huskies legends (Maya Moore, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, and Swin Cash) as well as the likes of Candace Parker and Tina Charles, takes on France with the gold medal at stake. History suggests it's a formality for Team USA, which is going for its fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal and 41st straight victory.

Friday's big story: No botched handoffs. No mishaps. Just blazing leg after blazing leg, until the US women's 4x100-meter relay team had overcome its odd recent history and shattered a 27-year-old world record in the event.

It was Carmelita Jeter who ran the anchor leg as the US completed the event in 40.82 seconds, more than a full half-second faster than the dubious standard set by East Germany in 1985. It was the first time the US had won the event since 1996, notoriously fumbling the baton both in 2004 and 2008 when they were among the favorites.

“I was thinking Olympic record, and when I saw world record I said, ‘Oh gosh,’ ” said Allyson Felix, who ran the second leg. “This is crazy.”

Tweet of the day: "WORLD RECORD, IT FELT AMAZING." -- @CarmelitaJeter, after the women's 4x100-meter relay.

Mind the gap, and stick around right here for further updates throughout the day.

Today at the Olympics: US hoops faces Argentina again, women's 4x100 relay

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff August 10, 2012 07:14 AM

LONDON -- Welcome to Day 14 of competition -- yep, we're two full weeks into this thing, with three days of Games left to go. Hard to believe this is coming to an end faster than Usain Bolt coming around the turn (OK, not quite that fast), but there's still plenty of good stuff yet to come. Today's docket includes medals in athletic, boxing, BMX cycling, field hockey (a very fun sport to watch live), sailing, soccer, swimming, synchronized swimming (where Harvard's Alex Meyer competes in the 10-kilometer open water race) , taekwondo, and wrestling.

Friday's must-see event: On most days -- perhaps all of them before today -- a medal event would be mentioned in this space. But the most intriguing competition Friday is a rematch of a game that actually happened Monday, and wasn't even close. The United States men's basketball team takes on Argentina in the semifinals, four days after beating them by 29 points (126-97). Another blowout is possible with the talent on the US roster and LeBron James playing as well as he ever has, but history suggests Argentina will make a game of it. In an Olympic tuneup less than three weeks ago, the winning margin for the US was just six (86-80), and the more recent game was close into the third quarter until Kevin Durant matched the entire Argentinian team with 17 points in the frame. Argentina was the first team to beat a US team constructed of NBA stars (2002 World Championships), and they took them down two years later to win the gold in Athens. With proud, tough veterans such as Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola, Argentina should provide the US with its toughest test in the tournament.

Also worth watching: Medals will be awarded in six athletics events today: the men's 4x400 and pole vault, and the women's hammer throw, 5,000-meters, 1,500-meters, and 4x100 relay. It's the latter that should stand as the most compelling competition. The US blazed through its qualifying heat (41.64 seconds), but in recent Olympics the team has had a history of mishaps and has not won gold since Atlanta. That could change Friday with Allyson Felix and Carmelita Jeter leading the US foursome, but Jamaica, with 100-meter gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Veronica Campbell-Brown on its side, should be right there stride for stride.

Thursday's big stories: Gotta go plural here, or at least one Big Story, Team Division and one Big Story, Individual. The first is the US women's soccer team's 2-1 victory over Japan, avenging their loss on penalty kicks in the World Cup final last year, a disappointing defeat that served as motivation to accomplish what they did Thursday night. “They snatched our dream last summer,” Megan Rapinoe said. “And this kind of feels like the nightmare turned back around.”

As for the individual who stole the night, well, who else but Usain Bolt? The transcendent, so-cocky-it's-comical sprinter completed his double-double, winning the 200-meters for the second straight Olympics just as he had in the 200. His breathtaking acceleration coming around the turn was reminiscent of Michael Johnson doing the same in Atlanta in 1996. In his usual humble way, he declared himself a "living legend'' afterward, which of course is entirely true.

Tweet of the day: While the media is pumping up the familiar names @CarliLloyd was focusing on making sure she outworks everyone and outshines everyone. -- James Galanis ‏(@coachgalanis), a former coach of US women's soccer standout Carli Lloyd. Lloyd, who had both US goals in its 2-1 victory over Japan, retweeted the sentiment.

Mind the gap, and stick around right here for further updates throughout the day.

Nic Batum apologizes for punching Juan Carlos Navarro in groin during game

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff August 8, 2012 04:21 PM

LONDON – At first, France's Nic Batum wasn't exactly remorseful after punching Spain's Juan Carlos Navarro in the groin during the teams' matchup Wednesday in the men's basketball medal round.

"I wanted to give him a good reason to flop," Batum told Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.

If Batum's motivation for the cheap shot is indeed what he told Wojnarowski -- that he was sick of Spain players flopping during a 66-59 victory -- it's probably a good thing for triple lindy specialist LeBron James that Team USA won't play France again in the Olympics.

Batum, presumably after being sent to his room to think about his bad behavior, did apologize via Twitter later on his account, @nicolas88batum

I want to apologize for my stupid act at the end, I showed a bad image of France and myself, Congrats to team Spain.

No word whether Navarro accepted his apology. Or for that matter, whether he has uncoiled from the fetal position.

Five questions with Dwyane Wade

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff August 8, 2012 11:49 AM

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LONDON -- Celtics fans don't need to be reminded that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are Nemeses 1 and 1A -- the lingering memories from the Eastern Conference Finals more than suffice in that sense. But when it comes to matters of the Olympics rather than the NBA, perhaps their talents are easier to appreciate around here, at least for a couple of weeks. (No chance? Well, I tried.)

While LeBron has emerged as the single most indispensable player to Team USA with his myriad of skills on full display, Wade, of course, is not playing at all, having ceded his roster spot in June when he required knee surgery following the Heat's victory over the Thunder in the NBA Finals.

But Wade is in the city for a few days, and he'll be in attendance at Wednesday's medal-round opener against Australia. I caught up with him for a few minutes this morning at a Gatorade Sport and Science Institute event at the NBA House to catch his thoughts on the state of Team USA, among other topics.

1. Are you concerned about Team USA's slow starts? Other than the Nigeria game, it's taken them some time to get their bearings early in games.

Wade: "Yeah, a little. They're spending a lot of time feeling each other out, almost being too unselfish at times. I don't think they'll start slow now that it's the medal round, now that it's win or go home. You've got to understand one thing, too -- a lot of guys are so excited to come out and play the US team, and they're so fired up and energized that they play at a really high level. One of the best things about the US team is their depth. We wear on guys, wear on guys, wear on 'em until eventually they break."

2. LeBron has often been the facilitator of the offense early in games, but he's been able to completely take scoring-wise whenever necessary. Are you at all surprised that he's controlling play pretty much at will?

Wade: "Well, LeBron is one of the greatest players in the world, and he has the ability to help a team win probably more than anyone else in the game. You see it, he can turn it on scoring-wise, he can pile up rebounds, assists, whatever is needed. He's doing whatever it takes for the team to win. I expect him to be a little more aggressive as we get closer to gold medal time. But aggressive for him is just being out on the court and being able to do whatever he does best, which is everything."

3. You were supposed to be playing here, but gave up your spot when you needed knee surgery after the Finals. Was it frustrating not being out there with these guys?

Wade: "Well, I'm a competitor, and I watch the games and say, 'aw, I could help there,' or 'aw, I could do that.' I see myself out there when I'm watching. In that sense, I miss it. This could have been my last Olympics [he played on the 2008 gold-medal winning team as well as the 2004 squad that took bronze], especially if they put the age limit in, and in that sense there's a little bit of regret. But our game is in great hands. Some of the young guys who have filled in for guys like me and Derrick Rose who couldn't play have done great. I don't know about you, but I've got 'em winning the gold. They're growing as a team, and I think they're going to play better with each successive game. Whether they're winning by 83 or winning by 3, 4, 5, they're finding ways to win and believing in each other."

4. You're going to be here through the weekend. Will you have a chance to catch any events besides basketball?

Wade: "I got in [Tuesday], and you can feel it immediately, the excitement from fans all around the world, and it's a chance to see some amazing athletes. I'm going to enjoy it. I'm going to check out a few events. Obviously I'm going to go check out basketball and support my team but I'm also going to go catch soccer, the women's finals. I want to experience that. I've never been at a soccer game. I'm one of those guys from afar who doesn't know anything about soccer, so I want to go see what that's all about, to come up with a better appreciation of how great they are as athletes and how great their game is. It's so big around the world, I want to understand it."

5. Being from Boston, I've got to ask: You guys put the full-court recruiting pitch on Ray Allen as soon as Game 7 was over, didn't you?

Wade: Laughs. "Nah, but you know, when you get a chance to add one of the best shooters in history, the best 3-point shooter in history, and you're adding him and making your team better while at the same time hurting one of your biggest rivals, you're pretty happy when it works out. Ray's going to give us another element in our offense, another weapon, and he's really going to enjoy the golf courses, I know that."

The agony of 1/100th of a second, and other things you learn at the Olympics

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff August 6, 2012 10:56 AM

LONDON -- When you're the slumbering pack of slugs known as the 2012 Red Sox, fourth place is a brief reprieve from being in fifth place. When you're an Olympian, fourth place is somewhere between disappointing and devastating, and usually much closer to the latter. That was hammered home again Monday night while watching Tyson Gay sob uncontrollably after he finished fourth in the men's 100-meter sprint. Imagine: Four years of training, four years of dedicating everything you do to that one 9-point-something-second race, and you miss a medal by 1/100th of a second. Cruel might not be a strong enough word to properly describe it.

I've been in London for 15 days now, with another week ahead. The look on Gay's face as he realized there was no spot on the podium for him will stay with me long after the Summer Olympics are in the past tense. Here are six other things I've learned during the Olympics.

Roger Federer really is a good sport: Sure, it's probably easier to be gracious in defeat when you've won 17 Grand Slam titles, are the world's No. 1-ranked player at age 30, and are widely regarded as the best to ever pick up a racquet. But Federer, who almost unfathomably had never won a singles medal in three previous Olympics, genuinely wanted the men's singles gold medal. Instead, he was helpless against local hero Andy Murray, who finally gave Britain a victory to celebrate on the Wimbledon lawn. Watching Federer smile, with just a hint of bemusement, through Murray's celebration and his fans' celebration of him made me appreciate one of our greatest contemporary sportsmen just a little bit more.

Usain Bolt must run at least one fly pattern in his life: No, of course he shouldn't play football -- his 6-foot-5-inch, 170-something-pound frame would be snapped in half by the first frothing-at-the-mouth safety to get to him. Besides, he's Jamaican -- mention football to him and he'll probably think you mean what we call soccer. And there's the whole catching-the-ball thing. But ... wouldn't you love to see him run just one fly pattern, just to see how fast he'd look on a football field? We're not asking him to pull a Renaldo Nehemiah. Just show up at a Patriots practice some day and see whether Brady can overthrow him. Just one time. Just to hear the "whooooosh'' as he runs by.

You bet Gabby Douglas should be America's sweetheart: The individual all-around champ is a bundle of electric athleticism and effortless charisma, and it was thrilling to see the 16-year-old's performance pay off in gold. The controversy around her hair is absurd, but she's handled it with grace that belies her age. She hasn't had much disappointment here, but if she did, you get the sense she'd put a better face on it than certain teammates.

The NBA's best need to be here: If there's a perception at home that the whole "Dream Team'' concept is tired or played out 20 years after Magic, Michael, and Larry reigned in Barcelona, well, it's not shared around the world. Team USA's first game here, against Florent Pietrus and France, was such a big deal that dozens of international media had to be turned away at the door or seated in the stands. Most were there just to catch a glimpse of the greatest players in a sport that has captivated the world. And the players are embracing this. Chris Paul hops from one event to the next. Kevin Durant and LeBron James were regulars at swimming. Kobe Bryant was at Wimbledon, toting his camera like a tourist. This is working in every regard, and it will be a shame if the NBA messes with it for no other reason but greed.

Handball is awesome: It reminds me of something your eighth-grade gym teacher might have made up when he got tired of everyone goofing off during floor hockey. It's a quirky combination of lacrosse and basketball, though the poor goalies, who might as well wear "hit me" signs pinned to their jerseys, would probably suggest it has a pretty heavy element of schoolyard dodgeball. Here's hoping it catches on in the US enough that it has a team good enough to qualify for Rio in four years. Also pretty cool: men's field hockey, and badminton (non-tanking division).

Michael Phelps has a winning personality: I recognize that it's strange to suggest that someone who arrived in London with 16 career Olympic medals has been a revelation here, but that's how I feel about Phelps. During his various interactions with the media, he has been anecdotal, self-deprecating, candid and reflective. I'm sure he's added polish over the years, but his appreciation of the moment and his willingness to articulate it was more than I expected from someone who pitches Subway sandwiches with Jay Glazer. It was a surprising contrast to teammate Ryan Lochte, who gives off the vibe of someone who is going to blow all his money hiring Van Halen (or his probable preference, Li'l Wayne) to play his birthday party.

Doc Rivers, Kayla Harrison become fast friends

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff August 6, 2012 09:53 AM

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LONDON — Kayla Harrison is a self-described “huge” Celtics fan and admirer of coach Doc Rivers.

During a chance encounter with Rivers at the NBC broadcast headquarters Thursday night, the judo gold medalist from Marblehead, Mass., discovered that the admiration is mutual.

Rivers is here moonlighting as a studio analyst for NBC’s coverage of the basketball competition. He was preparing to do a segment when Harrison, who was scheduled for a later interview, walked in.

“I just get done hair and makeup, go in the green room, and there’s Doc Rivers, and I just yelled, ‘Ahhhh, it’s Doc!’ Harrison said, “and he comes over all excited and shakes my hand and says, ‘Is that a gold medal?’ He was so nice, so genuine. I was jumping up and down because I was so already excited.”

Rivers was so impressed that he asked to abbreviate his segment and have Harrison come on the set with him because, he said, “she’s a better story than anything we were going to talk about. I wanted to talk to her. I tell you, what an incredible person. It was so cool.’’

Harrison said she fell for the Celtics instantly when she moved to Massachusetts in 2007 as a 16-year-old. She attended a game at TD Garden with her fiancé as recently as April, sitting in the third row.

“People say all the time, ‘I’m a Celtics fan,’ and you’re like, ‘OK,’ because you find out maybe they don’t know who Paul [Pierce] is or something,’’ Rivers said. “But I can tell you, she is legit.’’

Rivers, who knew about Harrison’s back story as a sexual abuse survivor before he met her, is going to arrange for her to be honored at a Celtics game during the upcoming season.

“It would be great to get all the Boston-area Olympians on the floor,” Rivers said. “But I want to make special mention of Kayla, do something special.

“She’s a true survivor. I love that she talks about her story and wants it out and wants to help people.”

While Harrison knows plenty about Rivers’s sport, well, that isn’t mutual.

“I know nothing about judo,’’ Rivers said. “Actually, her manager was trying to explain it to me because I told him that I saw a match that morning and it lasted about 10 seconds. The person was flat on her back and I wasn’t sure what happened. But I told Kayla I needed her to teach all my bigs how to block out. She got a big kick out of that.”

Today at the Olympics: Men's hoop vs. Argentina, Douglas takes on uneven bars

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff August 6, 2012 07:24 AM

LONDON -- Welcome to Day 10 of competition, which is not shaping up as a big day for marquee events, though there's plenty going on, with medals being awarded in eight sports, including five in track and field.

Monday's must-see event: Last time it took the court, the United States men's basketball team played lethargically against Lithuania and didn't lead for good until there were less than six minutes to play before winning, 99-94. Monday night is its first time on the court since the near-upset, and the Americans will be playing Argentina, a team they defeated by just 6 points in a pre-Olympic tuneup in Barcelona. While the US is all but assured of clinching the top seed in its pool even with a loss in its final game before the medal round, it hardly looked invincible against Lithuania. And with a roster that includes Manu Ginobili (get ready for some referee-duping flopping) and Luis Scola, Argentina is equipped to put a scare into the US if the sluggishness continues.

Also worth watching: A lot, no matter what your interests. Individual all-around gold medalist Gabby Douglas competes in the women's uneven bars, one of three gymnastics medals that will be awarded, along with men's vault and rings. Hope Solo and the US women's soccer team take on Canada in the semifinals. At the track, the most compelling race could be the men's 400, which changed in tenor when favorite LeShawn Merritt, the gold medalist in Beijing, suffered a hamstring injury in the preliminaries and had to bow out.

Sunday's big story: How about we answer this one with a Local Newspaper Medley?

The Guardian:

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The Independent:

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The Sun:

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The Sun goes with the local angle -- Andy Murray's gold medal in men's singles tennis. The other two go with the most anticipated event of the London Games, the men's 100-meter race, which lived up to its billing and then some when Usain Bolt blazed a 9.63 to repeat as the gold medalist Sunday night. He sure knows how to rise to the occasion, doesn't he?

Tweet of the day: Big congrats to @HolleyMangold for her competition at the Olympics! As an older brother I couldn't be more proud! #TeamUSA -- Jets center Nick Mangold, who left training camp and flew to London to watch his sister compete in the weightlifting competition. She finished 10th in the 75-kg group Sunday.

Mind the gap, and stick around for further updates.

Would-be Dream Team gets a wakeup call

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff August 4, 2012 11:26 AM

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LONDON -- The comparisons to the 1992 Dream Team were foolish enough in the first place, driven by shrill sports debate shows, a coincidental anniversary, and utterly devoid of any historical context.

But it's probably an even better idea now to abandon any stray inclination to suggest that the current United States Olympic men's basketball team could give the Larry-Magic-Michael originals from 20 years ago a run in their heyday. Team USA fended off hot-shooting and disciplined Lithuania Saturday, 99-94, after trailing in the fourth quarter, taking the lead for good on a Chris Paul 3-pointer with 5:38 left.

LeBron James, who finished with 20 points, took over down the stretch, something he apparently learned to do in the hours before Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.

While no one expected LeBron, international force Carmelo Anthony, and the rest of their NBA superstar teammates to demolish Lithuania by 83 points as they did to Nigeria Thursday, the prolonged tension in this one was surprising. Team USA led by 8 after the first quarter, 33-25, but rather than subduing the drama, it only built the rest of the game, with Lithuania outscoring the US over the final 30 minutes.

The purely basketball reasons the Lithuanians made a game of it were apparent. They shot 58.5 percent, running an effective high screen-and-roll offense, though with too many turnovers (23). The perception that Team USA's one relative area of weakness might be its defense in the pivot has grown after Saturday's outcome. While Kevin Love and Tyson Chandler did not play poorly, it was LeBron who was at center at key points. Believe it or not, a team of such extraordinary ability actually misses Dwight Howard, though considering his recent image-destructing decision-making, he might have demanded a trade to Lithuania in the third quarter.

Lithuania's approach could be a blueprint to attack the US later in the tournament, The Americans next game is Monday against Argentina, which played them close, losing by 6, in an exhibition two weeks ago. Argentina is also the last team to beat Team USA in the Olympics, in the 2004 semifinals. James and Anthony were members of that team, which ended up with three losses and a bronze medal in Athens.

This team should and most likely will be two spots higher on the podium than those Athens disappointments, even with the potential flaws that were revealed Saturday. Team USA shot poorly from the free throw line (61 percent, prompting Love to compare himself to notorious foul-line mason Shaquille O'Neal afterward), too often played lethargically on defense, and didn't move particularly well without the ball.

Yes, the gap has closed since 1992, when the Dream Team -- the one and only, forever beyond compare -- won every game by at least 32 points. The world has gained ground and Lithuania has a handful of players with actual NBA talent, particularly young big man and Raptor-to-be Jonas Valanciunas. But I can't see Linas Kleiza being permitted to drop 25 on M.J. and that crew, you know?

Final: Team USA 98, France 71

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff July 29, 2012 09:25 AM

The US proves the favorites in more ways than one, getting a huge ovation from the capacity crowd in the final seconds of its opening preliminary-round victory.

France stuck around for a while, trailing just 22-21 after the first quarter.

But behind Kevin Durant (22 points, 9 rebounds), Kevin Love (14 points), and LeBron James (9 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, plenty of highlights), the US gradually pulled away, playing stifling defense and overcoming some curious officiating to top a talented French team, which got 12 points from Ali Triore and 11 from Tony Parker.

That'll do it from the basketball arena. Be sure to check the Olympics Blog later, when I'll be posting from the Aquatic Centre as Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps, and Missy Franklin are among those competing Sunday night.

3:20, fourth quarter: Travel on Deron Williams. Did Mark Cuban put a hex on him? US leads, 89-64.

5:15: Two minutes after checking in, Davis misses on an alley-oop. He'll get plenty of other chances. Genuinely curious to see how he does playing with the truly elite.

9:25: Anthony Davis is the only player yet to see time for the US. C'mon, Krzyzewski, bring on The Brow!

End of third quarter: Deron Williams, one US player who has looked completely out of sorts, misses a three, but Kevin Love hauls down a one-handed rebounds and plows the ball through the hoop at the buzzer. Remember when this was close? The US is up, 78-51.

1:49, third quarter: LeBron has 9 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and probably six plays that, love him or hate him, remind you why he's the best player in the world. The US leads by 23, 74-51.

5:46: Unstoppable baseline jumper by LeBron off a spin move. Hard not to have a Game 6 flashback after that.

in an unrelated note, France is 1 of 11 from 3-point range.

8:17, third quarter: The US builds it lead to 22, 60-38, thanks to an 8-2 run to start the quarter, highlighted by a Durant three. He may be the only great shooter I've ever seen who looks like his shooting down at the basket.

Halftime: US builds it lead to 16 (52-36) despite some absolutely baffling refereeing. [Insert your favorite Tommy Heinsohn ref-blasting phrase here]. The scoreboard doesn't list individual fouls, but France has 20 attempts from the line, and LeBron in particular has been hit with a couple of calls that are dubious at best. Offensively, Kevin Durant leads the US with 15 points, and while he's just 4 of 8, he's had a ton of open looks. LeBron has been the facilitator, with a game-high six assists. For France, Florent Pietrus leads the way with 8. Maybe he could have hit a few shots for the Celtics in June.

By the way, I'm 99.9 percent sure the in-house announcer here is Coach Willie Maye.

3:20: France and the US are both shooting 38 percent, but the US has 11 more attempts. Not coincidentally, the US has a 29-20 rebounding margin.

4:02: Timeout, France, as a Kevin Durant three puts the US up, 40-28. Durant leads the US with 10 points. Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler are the top rebounders with 7 each. Because the Knicks are such a rebounding force as a team, you know.

4:50: James Harden gets his first action at the 5:32 mark, and in 42 seconds manages to hoist three shots, making one and missing back-to-back threes on the same possession. France does not fear the beard so far.

5:32, second quarter: Mickael Pietrus is not playing for France, but his older brother Florent has four points on 2 of 3 shooting.

6:20, second quarter: The US is trying to take any drama out of this. Kobe hit a pair of free throws and LeBron added a 3, and the lead is nine, 33-24.

LONDON -- Checking in from the overstuffed basketball venue, where LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant and company are opening play against France, which has more than a few recognizable names for hoops fans, among them Tony Parker (wearing protective goggles after getting hit by Chris Brown/Drake/Rihanna love triangle shrapnel), Nic Batum, and Boris Diaw.

Team USA may not match up to its legendary Dream Team forefathers of 20 years ago, but don't tell the international media; the place is so flooded with press that volunteers put many in the stands. So far, they're seeing quite a game -- though perhaps not the one they expected. The US led, 22-21, after the first 10 minutes, shooting just 29 percent from the field. There were plenty of highlights -- LeBron's long bounce pass between two defenders that found Kevin Durant in stride was spectacular even by his standards. But had France not shot just 4 of 9 from the free-throw line, it could have the lead.

One other thing: Mike Krzyzewski used a timeout. That's one more than Chuck Daly used the entire time in Barcelona.

Ginobili will have ankle evaluated

Posted by Marc J. Spears, Globe Staff August 25, 2008 07:09 AM

BEIJING -- US guard Kobe Bryant of the Lakers and Argentina guard Manu Ginobili of the Spurs were both on a flight from Beijing to Chicago that included Olympians from the US, Canada, Australia, and Chile.

Ginobili told the Boston Globe that he is on his way to San Antonio to get his ankle injury evaluated. The 2005 NBA All-Star reinjured his left ankle against the US in the semifinals of the men's basketball tournament last Friday and didn't play Sunday when Argentina beat Lithuania to win the bronze medal.

"We'll see what they want me to do," Ginobili said about the Spurs.

They've had a good run

Posted by Bob Ryan, Globe Staff August 24, 2008 09:40 AM

BEIJING -- As defending men's basketball champions, the Argentines had hoped to repeat. That's only natural.

But they seemed very happy to be leaving here with the bronze, which they earned via an 87-75 conquest of Lithuania. "The bronze is better than nothing," reasoned center Fabricio Oberto (San Antonio Spurs). "It would not be good to make a 35-hour flight home and arrived empty-handed."

It has been a marvelous six-year run for the 33-year old Oberto and friends. Oberto and the core group consisting of Manu Ginobili (age 31), Carlos Delfino (age 35), Andres Nocioni (age 28) and Luis Scola (age 28) have won a World Championship silver medal (2002, Indianapolis), an Olympic gold (2004, Athens), and now an Olympic bronze here, while losing the bronze medal game in the Tokyo Worlds in 2006.

And, of course, they will always have the distinctiion of being the first team to defeat a club with the letters "USA" on the front of the jersey in the era of professional participation in these championships. They did so with the earth-shaking conquest of the Americans six years ago in Indianapolis.

The question now is whether or not the end for this group is here, or whether we'll see this bunch two years hence in Turkey. If we don't, they have created some great memories for themselves.

"I am very proud to have been a part of this team," Oberto said. "What I'm proudest of is that we brought heart, dispipline and a love of the game to every game we've played over the years."

Former NBA center John Amaechi, here as a commentator, is a big fan of the Argentines. "They have a great legacy. They raised the profile of non-American basketball," he says. "They shattered the invincibility of American basketball."

Argentina hasn't always been lucky in these tournaments. After defeating America in 2002, they arrived in the championshi[p game without Ginobili, who had injured his ankle. Oberto broke his hand in the semifinal game of the Athens Olymlics and was not availble for the Finals. And Ginobili was not even suited up on Sunday because he had re-injured the ankle that hampered him in the 2008 NBA playoffs during Argentina's quarterfinal triumph over Greece.

But they played a very nice game without him to get that bronze medal. "A team that has won gold doesn't want to go home without any medal," pointed out Amaechi. "You know," he said, "I'm no (hoop) junkie, but I love this team. They truly did want it more than Lithuania."...

  • Final Olympic thought: I doubt that it's gone unnoticed in Moscow that the USSR had a helluva Olympics.

    China had the most golds with 51 and the USA had the most total medals with 110, but the unofficial winner was the old USSR, which accounted for a staggering 171 medals. If there still was a USSR, which there isn't.

    Oh, I know it's a bogus argument, because if all the former members of the Soviet Union were back under the USSR aegis, they'd be competing for a spot on the big team and there would be fewer medal opportunities. Hey, don't mess me up with logic, OK? I've got my little premise and I'm sticking to it.

    So...the Russian Federation (still the world's biggest country with 11 time zones) bagged 23 golds, 21 silvers and 28 bronzes for 72 medals. And then the 13 former members of the USSR now flying their own flags -- the Baltic countries, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Moldova and all those indistinguishable (except to people at the Kennedy School and at Tufts) "Stans," hauled in 99 more medals (20-24-55) for a grand total of 172.

    Hoist one in Khruschev's memory, why don't you?

  • Americans get golden redemption

    Posted by Marc J. Spears, Globe Staff August 24, 2008 08:13 AM

    BEIJING -- Typically, only a player and a coach attend Olympic press conferences for team sports. But after coming together as one to win a long-awaited gold medal, the USA men’s basketball team’s entire 12-man roster felt it was only fitting that they all were there side by side with their coach at Sunday’s postgame gathering.

    The United States won its first gold medal in men’s basketball since 2000 with a tough 118-107 victory over Spain in the Olympics finals at the Olympic Basketball Gymnasium Sunday. The Americans have now won 13 gold medals in the sport dating to 1936. The US, whose team was made up of NBA stars, went 8-0 in this tournament and won each game by double digits.

    "We had to pull together to get this win," said guard Dwyane Wade, who scored a game-high 27 off the bench. "If we would have broken off at one moment, the game could have went the other way. We are all happy for each other."

    Guard Kobe Bryant, who had 20 points, said: "Everyone wants to talk about NBA players being selfish, being arrogant, being individuals. But what you saw today was a team bonding together facing adversity and coming out of here with a big win."

    The Americans had completely dominated all of their opponents entering the gold medal game, winning every contest by at least 20 points. The US even hammered the Spaniards, 119-82, in preliminary action. But the gold medal game was far from a blowout as a much more confident Spain team was ready to play.

    "The major difference lied in our mental state," said Spain forward Pau Gasol, who had 21 points in the gold medal game. "In the last match we made some big mistakes … We didn’t have adequate confidence."

    Gasol’s mid-range jumper with 3:32 left in the intense contest trimmed Spain’s deficit to just 5 points, 104-99. But with the Spanish fans going wild, Bryant put his finger by his mouth to quiet the crowd after he nailed a 3-pointer and got fouled with 3:10 left. After the 2008 NBA MVP made the free throw, the Americans were up, 108-99.

    Spain, however, wasn’t ready to give up a fight for the gold. A 5-0 run finalized by a Carlos Jiminez 3-pointer trimmed Spain’s deficit to just 4 points, 108-104, with 2:25 remaining. But Wade followed with a 3-pointer that gave USA some breathing room, 111-104, with 2:04 left. Bryant’s running lay-in with 1:11 remaining put USA up, 113-105, and sealed the elusive gold.

    "I give respect where respect is due to the Spain team," forward LeBron James said. "They were unbelievable. We had a game plan and they countered our game plan by making some incredible plays. Every possession counted tonight for all 40 minutes. Every possession counted. You couldn’t take one possession off, one second off.

    "But if it wasn’t for the determination and will power that we have in each other, we wouldn’t have pulled through and got this win. Much respect to Spain, but the US is back on top."

    As the game clock wound down to the final buzzer, the American players were jubilant as the crowd chanted "USA … USA." After celebrating with hugs, fist pumps, chest bumps, running aimlessly and giving high fives, each American player went and shook hands or hugged former -US Olympian and NBC basketball analyst Doug Collins. Collins played on the US team in 1972 that lost a well-chronicled and controversial gold medal game to Russia.

    The US players next smiled brightly on the medal stand while waving and blowing kisses to the crowd. The Americans stared at the gold medals and kissed them once they were placed over their heads. And once the medal ceremony was over, they showed appreciation for coach Mike Krzyzewski and his coaching staff by taking turns placing all 12 gold medals on their necks for a picture.

    Long after the gold medal game was over, Wade said: "We’re not done [celebrating]. We’re going to go in the locker room and really celebrate some more. We were all going around hugging each other."

    Kidd was the only member of USA’s roster that had felt such bliss before. He won a gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The 35-year-old became only the 13th US men’s basketball player to win two gold medals and is undefeated while playing for four national teams. The Americans won bronze during the 2004 Athens Olympics.

    "For the guys who never experienced its unbelievable," Kidd said. "I bet you if you ask them right now they’ve forgotten about getting the medal around their neck because it goes by so fast.

    "Everybody was excited. Everybody wanted to take a deep breath. Everybody was getting their shoes signed because it’s something, like I told them, that they can never take away from you."

    Four USA players who may have appreciated the gold medals the most were Wade, James, Carmelo Anthony, and Carlos Boozer. All four were members of the disappointing bronze medal squad at the 2004 Athens Games. Wade, James, and Anthony were also among the US players who also won bronze at the 2006 World Championships.

    "After 2004, we touched base with each other and said we wanted to make a commitment in being part of USA Basketball and try to accomplish something we’ve never done before, and that’s win a gold medal," James said. "Once we came together and said we wanted to do it, we put our time, we gave up our summers to sacrifice to play the game of basketball, which we love to do.

    "To finally go and win the gold medal, not just for us as individuals but for everyone and America means a lot."

    Said Wade: "The moment is special. All three of us took time out to just take the moment in."

    Argentina wins bronze in men's hoops

    Posted by Marc J. Spears, Globe Staff August 24, 2008 02:14 AM

    BEIJING -- Argentina won a bronze medal in men's basketball today by defeating Lithuania 87-75 at the Olympic Basketball Gymnasium. Ex-NBA player Carlos Delfino had a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds for Argentina. Argentina star guard Manu Ginobili of the Spurs did not play due to an ankle injury.

    A positive experience for Hammon

    Posted by Bob Ryan, Globe Staff August 23, 2008 03:41 PM

    BEIJING -- People are going to think what they're going to think, and Becky Hammon isn't going to worry about it. She long ago gave up on the idea that the average American would understand.

    Hammon is the star player for the WNBA's San Antonio Silver Stars who came here to be an Olympian, only not to play for the USA, but for, of all people, the Russian Federation. Some people aren't happy about that. They see her as a traitor, or something. And many folks think the Americans were a bit rough on her during their 67-52 victory in Thursday's semifinal game. Hammon had come into the game as Russia's leading scorer, but she was held to three points while being subjected to some physical defense.

    But she bounced back, as great competitors will, and she now has a measure of satisfaction. She's got a bronze medal, and she knows the Russians couldn't have won it without her 22 points, and especially without her big second quarter during Russia's 94-81 conquest of China on Saturday evening. The Russians and Chinese played evenly in periods one, three and four. The difference was the 28-16 Russian edge in the second quarter, and the player who made that difference was Hammon, who made three three-pointers while picking up a steal and an assist

    "It's just relief," she said. "It's nice to win the medal, but that was never why I did it."

    She didn't spurn the Americans. They spurned her. She just wasn't in the Olympic mix, but when the Russians asked her if she'd consider playing for them, she said, 'Why not?" She has played professionally in Russia, and they were very happy to arrange the paperwork.

    Someone might quarrel with the loose eligibility rules some countries have. Truth be told, I'm one of them. But until the IOC clamps down, people will keep doing it, and so there was nothing illegal about what the Russians and Becky Hammon did. They like her and she likes them and she got to have an Olympic experience. It was as simple as that.

    "I've never doubted my decision for a second," she said. "I'm here for the right reasons. To me, it's been an even better experience than I thought. The Village was great and the other girls have treated me so well. I'm anxious to get back home and re-join my team and then I'll be looking forward to returning to Russia."

    US men in final

    Posted by Gregory Lee Jr. Globe Staff August 22, 2008 12:12 PM

    The United States men's team has reached the gold medal game with a 101-81 victory over Argentina.

    Carmelo Anthony led eight players in double figures for the U,S. with 21 points.

    The Americans will meet Spain on Sunday in the final.

    USA men's hoop up 9 at half

    Posted by Marc J. Spears, Globe Staff August 22, 2008 11:11 AM

    BEIJING -- The United States men's basketball team owned a 49-40 lead a halftime against Argentina in the semi-finals game of the Olympics at the Olympic Basketball Gymnasium tonight. The Americans have shot more 3-pointers (6-of-20) than two point field goal attempts (13). USA forward Carmelo Anthony has 13 points while Argentina forward Luis Scola had 12 points. Argentina guard Manu Ginobili left the game with 3:39 left in the first quarter with USA up 14-4 and didn't return the rest of the first half. Spain beat Lithuania earlier to advance to the gold medal game Sunday.

    Crisis averted for ladies hoops

    Posted by Marc J. Spears, Globe Staff August 21, 2008 09:38 AM

    BEIJING -- The United States women's basketball team avoided a major catastrophe today, pulling away from Russia in the second half to advance to the gold medal game with a 67-52 win.

    US women's hoops in a dogfight

    Posted by Marc J. Spears, Globe Staff August 21, 2008 08:38 AM

    BEIJING -- The United State's women's basketball team owns a slim 33-32 lead over Russia in the semifinals of the Olympic basketball tournament Thursday night. USA guard Diana Taurasi, a former UConn star, has a game-high 12 points at halftime.

    Russian guard Becky Hammon, who is an American, is scoreless.

    The USA is only shooting 33 percent from the field but has nailed 5 of 9 three-pointers. Russia has made 43 percent of its field goals, but missed 4 of 5 three-pointers.

    The Americans also have 13 turnovers, 2 fast break points and have not scored any points off Russian turnovers. The Russians were up by as many as 7 points before the Americans came back to take the halftime lead

    Team USA has won three straight gold medals and hasn't lost in the Olympics since the semifinal round of the 1992 Barcelona games.

    Several members of the USA men's basketball team are in attendance tonight.

    USA Men's Hoops Up 12 at half

    Posted by Marc J. Spears, Globe Staff August 20, 2008 08:48 AM

    USA's men's basketball team is up 55-43 at halftime in a quarterfinals contest against Australia after Deron Williams made a 3-pointer at the intermission buzzer. The Americans were only up 25-24 at the end of the first quarter. Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James both have 12 points at halftime. USA defeated Australia by only 11 points, 87-76, in an exhibition Aug. 5 in Shanghai.

    Phelps watches USA hoops

    Posted by Marc J. Spears, Globe Staff August 18, 2008 12:52 PM

    BEIJING -- Approximately 20 members of the USA swim team came out to Wukesong Arena to watch the USA men's basketball team play Germany tonight. Michael Phelps was invited to join the USA basketball team in their locker room following their 106-57 victory and here's some of the Q&A following the event:

    What was it like hooking up with the men's basletball team tonight?

    "It's cool. When we're swimming and we look up and see these guys, it's awesome to see them in the stands. We were all so excited it was like we can't lose in front of these guys, we're not losing a single race in front of these guys. Just being able to sit in here and hang out with these guys, it's cool to sit in here. These are the guys I'm always watching on tv. It's cool to siti nhere, hang our and be one of the guys."

    Whose idea was it to come over and watch the men play tonight?

    "I actually wanted to come and see one of the games before I left and this worked out perfectly in our scheduling, so I was able to come down here."

    How many of your teammates joined you here tonight?

    "About half our team came over tonight. We had a pretty big showing of the crew to cheer these guys on."

    Did they put on a good show for you?

    "Oh yeah. We destroyed them. It was a fun game to watch."

    U.S. men perfect

    Posted by Gregory Lee Jr. Globe Staff August 18, 2008 10:07 AM

    The U.S. men's basketball team kept its record unblemished with a 106-57 victory over Germany Monday evening at the Olympic Basektball Gymnasium. The Americans close out group play with a 5-0 record and are the only undefeated men's team at the 2008 Olympic Games.

    Dwight Howard led the U.S. with 22 points and 10 rebounds. LeBron James (Akron, Ohio) added 18 points, while Kobe Bryant scored 13 and Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul each added 10. The Americans outrebounded the Germans 52-38 and hit 55 percent (42-77) of their shots while limiting the Germans to only 30 percent (22-73) from the field.

    The U.S. now moves on to the knockout and will face Australia in the quarterfinals, which begin on Wednesday, August 20.

    Team USA rolls

    Posted by Gregory Lee Jr. Globe Staff August 16, 2008 12:05 PM

    The U.S. basketball team continued its dominance as eight players scored in double figures as the Americans whipped Spain, 119-82.

    LeBron James led the Americans with18 points. Dwayne Wade and Carmelo Anthony each had 16 points, as the USA outscored the Spainards 58-37 in the second half.

    US women roll

    Posted by Gregory Lee Jr. Globe Staff August 15, 2008 11:26 AM

    Tina Thompson (Los Angeles, Calif.) tallied 17 points as five Americans scored in double figures in the U.S. women's basketball team's 93-55 victory over Spain Friday night at the Olympic Basketball Arena.

    Lisa Leslie (Hawthorne, Calif.) recorded a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds and added two blocked shots. Candace Parker (Naperville, Ill.) had 13, Diana Taurasi (Chino, Calif.) 12 and Sylvia Fowles (Miami, Fla.) had 10. Amaya Valdemoro led Spain with 17 points, while Nuria Martinez and Anna Montanana each added 10.

    Now 4-0 in Group B, the U.S. will take on New Zealand Sunday, August 17, at 10:15 p.m.

    Team USA rolls

    Posted by Gregory Lee Jr. Globe Staff August 14, 2008 09:35 AM

    The United Sattes avenged a 2006 upset loss in the semifinals of the World Championships, by thrashing Greece, 92-69.

    Today's American victory is its first statement to the rest of the field that they are the favorites to win the gold medal and all others should be focused on fighting for the silver medal.

    Team USA defeated teams that are not expected to medal in China and Angola. The Americans will next play undefeated Spain (3-0), the 2006 World Champions, tomorrow night.

    USA in control

    Posted by Gregory Lee Jr. Globe Staff August 14, 2008 08:44 AM

    After a slow start (the Americans led only 20-16 after the first quarter), Team USA leads Greece 51-32 at the half behind a spark off the bench by Dwayne Wade. Wade and LeBron James each had 11 points in the second quarter.

    The Americans finished the half with a 15-6 run.

    US men roll

    Posted by Gregory Lee Jr. Globe Staff August 12, 2008 10:23 AM

    BEIJING -- Dwyane Wade scored 19 points and grabbed five rebounds to lead a balanced attack as the U.S. men's basketball team scored a 97-76 victory over Angola in Group B play at the Olympic Basketball Arena Tuesday night.

    Wade connected on six of eight field goal attempts, including 2-3 from three-point range, as the Americans hit .560 from the field (38-68). Dwight Howard scored 14 points, while LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony each added 12. Anthony led the Americans with six rebounds. Carlos Morais led Angola with 24 points.

    The U.S. continues group play on Thursday, August 14, when they meet Greece at 8 p.m. The Greeks improved to 1-1 after defeating Germany 87-64 earlier Tuesday evening.

    Team USA leads

    Posted by Gregory Lee Jr. Globe Staff August 12, 2008 08:53 AM

    Dwight Howard leads Team USA with 12 points and three rebounds as the American men's team leads Angola 55-37 at halftime at the Olympic Basketball Gymnasium. LeBron Games and Dwayne Wade each have 11 points as the USA has hit 64 percent (21-33) from the field.

    Basketball fans take in USA vs. China

    Posted by Scott LaPierre August 10, 2008 04:34 PM




    (Text by Patricia Wen / Globe Staff)
    BEIJING--On the day of the long-anticipated match-up between the U.S. Redeem Team and China, we went in search of a bar or restaurant where typical Beijingers would watch together on a big-screen T.V. We found such a placeat the Xiao Yu Mountain restaurant in central Beijing. The place, where scores of red lanterns hung from ceilings, seemed an ideal spot to test one thing we had heard from our sports department colleagues: Chinese fans like U.S. players.

    Indeed, there were many fans -- mostly young men under 30 -- who named Americans as their most admired. There was a 22-year-old waiter, Huang Hui, who looks up to Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant because he plays "rough and wild." Zhang Rui, 28, likes LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers because he's "a funny guy." And Xu Dan, 26, aspires to be like Denver Nuggets guard Allen Iverson because he's "a short man" who works hard in a tall man's game.

    For the most part, we found that patriotism took a back seat to personal passion. Still, many also named Yao Ming, the 7-foot, 6-inch center for the Houston Rockets, who has been given by China's rulers the status of a national hero, especially during the Olympics. And they wished that China would miraclously beat the U.S. (China did not, losing 101 to 70.)

    At a time when China seeks to boost its patriotic image to the world, did those who liked the American players feel disloyal?

    Tang Wei, 27, who likes Bryant, shook his head.

    "One world, one dream," he said with a smile, repeating the slogan for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

    U.S. rout Chinese

    Posted by Marc J. Spears, Globe Staff August 10, 2008 11:42 AM
    usachina.jpg
    Kobe Bryant dunks as Sun Yue of China defends. (Dusan Vranic-Pool/Getty Images)

    BEIJING -- It was billed to be the most hyped up team sport event - The U.S. vs. China in men's basketball.

    The stage was set between East and West.

    President Bush and his father arrived 30 minutes before the game to witness the event.

    During pre-game introductions the NBA all-star team called the United States received a louder reception than their own team.

    Kobe Bryant got the loudest ovation of all -- even over Yao Ming, who before the game said he knew the Chinese would not win but hoped that it would be competitive.

    Well after one quarter it seemed as if Yao would receive his wish when the Chinese trailed 20-16.

    But Dwayne Wade scored 19 points and LeBron James added 18 as the Americans whipped the Chinese, 101-70 before an overflowing crowd at the 18,000 seat arena this morning.

    The U.S. broke away with a strong second quarter to take a 49-37 lead at the half. The game was put out of reach in the third quarter after Wade's three-point play gave the Americans a 68-48 lead.

    Ming finished with 13 points.

    FULL ENTRY

    Andrade moves on

    Posted by Gregory Lee Jr. Globe Staff August 10, 2008 10:22 AM

    BEIJING -- The opening act was not pretty for Demetrius Andrade but it was effective as he outscored Kakhaber Jvania of the Republic of Georgia, 11-9 in the first round of the welterweight division today at Boxing Workers’ Gymnasium.

    The lefthander from Providence started slow as the Georgian’s plan of attack was to crowd and attempted to brawl against the disciplined top-ranked fighter.

    Throughout the bout there was a series of missed shots and plenty of clinches in the four-round bout.

    Andrade advances to fight Russia’s Andrey Balanov Thursday in the second round.

    Argentina loses in men's hoops opener

    Posted by Marc J. Spears, Globe Staff August 10, 2008 07:01 AM

    BEIJING -- Argentina's men's basketball team, the 2004 Olympic gold medalists, lost its Olympic opener 79-75 to Lithuania on Sunday night at the Olympic Basketball Gymnasium. Forward Linas Kleiza, who also plays for the Denver Nuggets, sealed the victory for Lithuania with 2 seconds left to seal the huge victory. Argentina star guard Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs missed an off-balanced 3-pointer at the buzzer in the Group A opener loss.

    "If you consider this loss, it's not that important," said Ginobili, who had a game-high 19 points. "But emotionally it is important. It puts a lot of pressure to you on the next game and the following one. We're going to have to get through it and we have to step up. We played an OK game. We have to play a great game now."

    Bush watches US women hoopsters' debut

    Posted by Marc J. Spears, Globe Staff August 9, 2008 11:40 AM

    BEIJING -- Unbeknownst to the United States women’s basketball team, they had a strong Olympic Games debut in front of their President on Saturday night. President George W. Bush made a surprise appearance during the American’s 97-57 blowout victory over Czech Republic.

    Bush is slated to watch the United States’ men’s basketball team play its debut contest against host China on Sunday. USA Basketball didn’t know that Bush was attending the women’s debut until Saturday afternoon and the players didn’t know he was there until afterward. He sat next to USA Basketball president Val Ackerman in a private section of the stands and departed with the U.S. ahead comfortably 75-44 after three quarters at the contest at Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium.

    “We did not know until after the game, so that was pretty cool,” said USA forward-center Lisa Leslie, who had 4 points and 10 rebounds.

    Czech Republic actually opened to a strong 8-0 start. The Americans’ first basket came on a Diana Taurasi fall away jumper with 6:37 left in the first quarter to trim the Czech Republic’s lead to 10-2. After being down 13-2, USA finished the first with a 22-17 lead and never was in trouble after that.

    Taurasi, a former Connecticut star, scored a game-high 17 points after making 7-of-13 shots and nailing two free throws. USA reserve center Sylvia Fowles also had 16 points, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks while reserve guard Cappie Pondexter added 12 points. The Americans shot 52 percent from the field, caused 27 turnovers and out-rebounded their foes 41-32.

    “We started off probably a C-, but we ended up probably a B+,” said USA forward Tina Thompson, who had 7 points.

    USA men’s basketball team was also in attendance during the game. But during halftime, there was a security concern that nearly got out of hand as fans tried take pictures and get as close to Team USA as possible while they sat in a private section. Both USA basketball teams have bonded during practice sessions and meals at Beijing Normal University.

    “We are one family,” Thompson said. “We support each other all the way through. We have one goal and that’s to win the gold medal. So we are going to be behind each other the whole way.”

    The Americans return to action tomorrow night to play host China. China defeated Spain 67-64 in its opener after receiving 15 points and 12 rebounds by Lan Bian.

    “We are definitely looking forward to playing China,” Leslie said. “This is their home country and they want to leave out of (the Olympics) with a medal. We don’t want that to happen. It will be a great challenge for us.

    “And when you look at their fans, they’re going to have home court advantage so to speak. We have to be on top of our game.”

    Bush oversees

    Posted by Gregory Lee Jr. Globe Staff August 9, 2008 08:44 AM

    President George Bush is watching the United States women's basketball team in its first game against the Czech Republic. He was accompanied by USA basketball president Val Ackerman.

    Also the US men's team is in the house.

    USA Hoops practice Saturday

    Posted by Marc J. Spears, Globe Staff August 9, 2008 05:05 AM

    BEIJING -- After spending about six hours at the opening ceremony on Friday, USA Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski gave his team a light final practice before their Olympic opener late tonight against China. Team USA watched film of their previous games before the practice at Beijing Normal University yesterday afternoon. Due to the late 10:15 p.m. local start (10:15 a.m. Sunday morning in Boston) for the much anticipated Group B opener for both teams, Krzyzewski said there will also be a shoot around some time today back at BNU to get the players out of their hotel and ready.

    “(Saturday’s) practice is about where are we at right now,” Krzyzewski said before yesterday’s practice, “what things can we do to make them a little bit better. We showed them on tape and then go 5-on-0. I didn’t have them taped (for their ankles Saturday). We were on our feet for about six hours (at the opening ceremony). It’s great to march, but it’s long. You can’t imagine how long it is.”

    Krzyzewski said the Americans were completely healthy entering the China contest. Center Dwight Howard said his previous sternum injury is not a concern. Guard Dwyane Wade added he feels completely healed from a left knee injury that ended last season with the Heat prematurely for him. Krzyzewski said Wade has played as well as any other USA player during the five exhibition games.

    “I do have my hops back and it feels good,” said Wade, who has had several acrobatic dunks in USA’s exhibition games. “I’ll tell you, it feels good to have that athletic explosion back.”

    Said Krzyzewski: “Dwyane is at the level that he was when (the Heat) won the (NBA) championship (in 2006).”

    USA's Kobe to Italy?

    Posted by Marc J. Spears, Globe Staff August 8, 2008 05:13 AM

    BEIJING – If Italy comes knocking with big money next summer, the NBA could lose its biggest star in Kobe Bryant.

    When asked by The Boston Globe about a report that LeBron James would strongly consider playing in Europe for $50 million for one season when he becomes a free agent in two years, Bryant said he would take a similar deal by a pro team in Italy if offered when he becomes a free agent next summer. Such would be a devestating loss for the NBA since the Los Angeles Lakers star was the NBA’s Most Valuable Player last season and considered its most popular player. The Associated Press originally reported that Bryant could have interest in playing professionally in Europe.

    “I’d go. I’d probably go,” said Bryant, during a USA Basketball press conference on Friday morning. “Like Milan or something like that, where I grew up or something like that… Peace out.”

    Bryant continued: “Do you know any reasonable person that would turn down 50 (million dollars)?”

    Bryant spent a large part of his childhood growing up in Italy while his father, Joe, played professional basketball there and speaks fluent Italian. In 1999, the 10-time NBA All-Star also acquired a 50 percent ownership of the Olimpia Milano of the Italian Professional Basketball League.

    “Because I grew up in Italy it has more significance to me because I’m more familiar with it, I’ve been there and I still have friends there,” said Bryant, a three-time NBA champion. “I’m thinking about buying a house out there. It would be nothing to me to be able to do that.”

    ESPN.com reported that a person close to James said Tuesday that the Cavaliers' superstar would strongly consider playing overseas if he was offered a salary of "around $50 million a year." ESPN also reported that Russia CSKA Moscow and Greece Olympiacos have already contacted James, but nothing has been discussed monetarily. Considering the Euro versus the American dollar and that European teams have no salary cap, a contract paying $50 million American wouldn’t be out the realm of possibility.

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