On the Way to Beijing...
August 4, 9:28 p.m.

It’s time for Beijing 8.8.08…by the time you read this, I’ll be on my way to China for the Olympic games where I’ll announce wrestling for NBC. I hope to continue to write my blog throughout my stay in China, however, that is all based on time and access.

The Road to Redemption…after being embarrassed in Athens, USA Basketball made necessary changes to the process of choosing players as well as to the overall direction and leadership of the team. They now have the right man in place, Hall of Famer Jerry Colangelo, who chose the right coach in Coach K. After getting the coaching staff in line, a staff that includes Knicks Head Coach Mike D’Antoni who brings years of international experience, Colangelo then set out on this quest for Gold by sitting down and meeting with NBA players, asking them if they were willing to commit three years of their lives to USA Basketball, he received that commitment from some of the greatest players in the world. Everything is in place for Team USA to reclaim their spot atop the basketball world.

This time it’s not like Athens, there will be no excuses, it won’t be about the process of picking the right players for team or that the coach, Larry Brown, wouldn’t play some of the best players because they were rookies. Athens was chaotic to say the least. Now, the right leadership is in place with Jerry Colangelo, he picked the right coach in Coach Krzyewski, now it’s on the players to deliver!

They have played well in prepping for the Games, but that wasn’t against the World’s elite. Their Group B is arguably the toughest bracket with Germany, Greece and Spain. Just look at the depth and talent of Spain’s roster; Jose Calederon, the Gasol brothers (Pau & Marc), Raul Lopez, Juan Carlos Navarro, Jorge Garbajosa, Rudy Fernandez and 17 year-old sensation Ricky Rubio.

Despite the stiff competition including Argentina in Group A, I expect Team USA to win Gold. By the way, Jason Kidd in Team USA’s latest win didn’t play the entire second half. This shoudn’t be a surprise, while Kidd is a certain Hall of Famer, he’s not the best point guard on the team, and he may not be the second best. I announced two Hornets v. Mavs games during the playoffs for TNT and I watched Paul run circles around Kidd. It’s not Kidd’s fault, it’s called age - Oh, and Chris Paul is pretty special.

NBA thoughts and facts…
There are 29 current NBA players participating at the Beijing Games along with 17 former NBA players and eight international players whose rights are held by an NBA team. There are two NBA teams with three current players participating in the Olympics for their countries, Toronto and Utah. The Raps have Chris Bosh: USA , Roko Ukic: Croatia and Jose Calderon: Spain. The Jazz have Carlos Boozer: USA, Deron Williams: USA and Andrei Kirilenko: Russia The Raptors have the most players at the Olympics that are currently on an NBA roster as well as having their rights held by an NBA team. That number is four, with the addition of Giorgos Printezis of Greece.

The Rockets add Ron Artest to TMac, Yao, Scola, and Battier, they’ll be tough to handle but health is always a factor in Houston with Yao and McGrady. They must feel like the time is Now to make a move like that.

Kwame Brown signs a two-year deal with Detroit. Brown has never lived up to being the number 1 pick by MJ and Wizards, but this is a good fit for the Pistons. Joe Dumars finds a nice fit for his team. But this isn’t the major deal he was looking to swing. BTW, did you know that Flip Saunders was the longest tenured coach in Detroit since Chuck Daly. Flip lasted all of three years!

Emeka Okafor signed a six-year $72 million deal in Charlotte. From what I hear, Emeka was ready to play out the year and walk, new coach Larry Brown stepped in and convinced management and ownership to spend big money for first time in franchise history. Okafor was sixth in the league in rebounding last year and after there were questions about his durability, he played in all 82 games.

Orlando loses little-used guard Carlos Arroyo to a one-year deal with Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Have we heard the last of Tim Donaghy? I don’t think so.

Other stuff…
Brett Favre has been reinstated and he’s reporting to Packer camp. Forget about everything you’ve heard about this situation and let me ask you this…if you needed to win one game on Sunday who would you pick, Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers….Favre right, because at the end of the day, it’s about Winning and Favre has done that throughout his career including winning the Super Bowl. Last year he led them to the NFC Championship game and he was second in the league in the MVP voting.

Once again, I want to take a moment to thank everyone who has welcomed me and my family to TO and the Raptors. We appreciate it. By now I have returned every e-mail…well…except six…because they are QUARANTINED!...what does that mean, I don’t know, I just know I can’t open them and reply to you…so if you sent me an e-mail and you haven’t heard back, that is why…once I get back from Beijing, I promise to look into it further.

Take care and the next time you hear from me, I’ll be in Beijing.
Remember, you can always get in touch mdevlin@raptors.com