Tim Shea's 2006 FIBA World Championship Blog

Periodically throughout the 2006 FIBA World Championship, Charlotte Bobcats Director of International Scouting Tim Shea will be checking in with NBA.com to offer his thoughts on the competition. The New York native is one of the most respected members of the international basketball community. He has spent the last decade working in the NBA, with a resume that including stints with the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns.

Currently living in Spain, he has been a European resident since 1972. As one of the last American coaches living in Europe, Shea served as head coach for teams in Austria, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Fluent in English, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, Shea led Vienna Austria to a national runner-up finish in 1981 and later directed Lisbon Portugal to national titles in 1989 and 1990.

Additionally, he was selected by FC Barcelona as the club's development coach for the junior program where he trained 2002 NBA Rookie of the Year Pau Gasol and Washington draft pick Juan Carlos Navarro.

Preview | Parker Loss a Big Blow | WCOB Games Tip Off | Sunday's Action | The Real Deal Duel? | Coaching Makes a Difference | Tony Parker is "MUCHO" Tony Parker! | The Cream Rise to the Top | Aug. 26 Post-Game Analysis | Aug. 27 Post-Game Analysis | Semi-Finals Preview | Sept. 1 Post-Game Analysis | Spain Wins Gold, U.S. Takes Bronze

Posted by Tim Shea on September 3, 2006

With Pau Gasol out of action, good minutes and a paint presence from Felipe Reyes and Marc Gasol were needed for Spain to win. They got it.

Spain needed Juan Carlos Navarro and Jorge Garbajosa at the very top of their games. The got it.

They needed the backcourt reserves to function. They did.

They needed to match the defensive intensity and confidence of the Greeks. They did.

Spain was on a mission. None of their tournament wins were lucky, undeserved victories. Spain basically just steamrolled over opponents.

The defensive intensity and activity demonstrated in the final were enormous. Combined with rebounding on both ends of the floor, Spain's efficient shooting (58% from two and 50% from three), they kept the Greeks on their heels.

Greece tried using their big centers, Lazarous and Baby Shaq to no avail.

Later, they tried using with five "smalls." Nothing.

No one could stop the "SpainTrain" -- not even passengers. Before you know it, it’s 28-12, then 35-16. But the Greeks never stopped doing what they do.

They believed, even with a 43-23 halftime score.

A lot of players tried to put together heroic efforts for Greece in the second half. A lineup of five perimeter players attempted penetration -- divide and conquer. There was no effect.

Baby Shaq returned and got into foul trouble. Despite the Greek belief, after 30 minutes, they cannot even slow the SpainTrain.

With the score 54-34 in the fourth period and time running out for gold, Hercules was needed but he did not appear

No team in Spanish history has done so much to help itself in recent years. The Spanish Federation and ACB cooperated to benefit the nation. It was good planning and investment.

The Spanish ACB is the jewel of the old country, especially after Italy started to experience the same many conflicts of opinions and divisions. The Greek League, on the other hand, is wavering economically with an unsecure future regarding sponsors.

This Spanish National Team was arguably the best in Spain's history.

Right now, the darn best team in the whole wide basketball world.

Enhorabuena España (Congratulations Spain).

They deserve it. They built it.

I will now grow a beard… to be like Pau.

Positive Vibrations for Team USA

There is nowhere to point fingers. There is no one to blame, there is no downside.

The World Championships 2006 becomes the starting point of a process of growth, of elimination and adjustments for Team USA.

Why? Because progress is a process, as evidenced by Team USA immediately bouncing back to get the bronze medal. The players determined faces were a poem, and a realization: Have to bring "A-game, baby." Less will not get it done.

Posted by Tim Shea on September 1, 2006

Greece 101, USA 95 (and it's not a shock)

After winning the 2005 European Championship, Greece could become the world champs.
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images

I don't want to say it, I really don't want to, but I must. I told you.

Team USA committed the same mistakes as they did against Germany. A misunderstanding, perhaps a denial, of where they are and who they are up against.

The U.S. was unable to control the rhythm of game, which was Greece's for 35 minutes. Team USA couldn't create a rhythm convenient to its interest. The Greeks maintained control the entire game, and when the USA wanted to change it, they could not. Mention has to be made of Team USA's shot selection. One word: Terrible.

Team USA's defense was porous as well, particularly weak on the pick and roll from all offensive locations on the court, especially the high post.

They tried trapping, with poor results. They tried switching, which Greece exploited for mismatches. Finally, they tried "straight up" defense. The American on-the-ball defenders avoided the on-the-ball screens, going behind them.

The result was all useless against the well-prepared Greeks. Once again Greek head coach Panagiotis Yannakis demonstrated his abilities as a leader and as a coach. The Greek team prepared for every contingency.

Diamantitis, Papadopoulos, Spanoulis and Schortsianitis all stood out for Greece. Greece making it a point in closing out the U.S. outlet-transition passes thereby effectively cutting off and denying USA fast break opportunities.

The U.S. free throw shooting by the third quarter was 19-of-32. Horrible.

The bottom line is the U.S. failed its mission by abusing the dribble, forcing individual efforts, thereby demonstrating a lack of understanding of team concepts, showing poor floor organization and balance, which consequently fed into its inability to perform as a team. Team USA never was in the game. It was a repetition of the previous performance versus Germany.

If this game had been a boxing match, then it would have been a unanimous decision. Maybe even a TKO.

And an honest question; Is anyone in the USA capable of coaching these wonderful athletes/players?

Is there someone out there who can get inside these millionaires psyches and explain to them that the world knows how to play the game, respect the game and execute the game? Is anyone able to raise Dream Team, Jr?

There is a wonderful phrase used in Spain. it refers to doing things the right way -- the universal way. The phrase is "Hacerlo como Dios manda." It means do it the way "God intended it to be done."

Spain 75, Argentina 74

It was enthusiasm (Spain) versus experience (Argentina). It was well-executed basketball: teams reading defenses; patience; ball movement; player movement. The individual as part of the whole.

Given how many players from Argentina played or have played professionally in Spain – and teamed with players on the Spanish National team -- there is a fraternal connection between these two squads. Like two brothers, almost twins. They played well-fought, no surprises and no holds barred basketball.

It was a close contest the entire game, with only details deciding the winner. Spanish Coach Pepu Hernandez was perhaps more able than his Argentinean counterpart by astutely utilizing his reserves. The Argentina players finally ran out of gas. Spain's youngsters Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Rodriguez provided spark, skills and savvy.

And one name for Spanish History: Pau Gasol. He's a Spanish National treasure, and worthy of that title. He is of the rare variety: ambitious, intelligent and skilled. There are very few of them in the world today. Close behind him is "La Bomba" (The Bomber), Juan Carlos Navarro. A quiet leader with the heart of a lion.

Watching this game was a tribute to basketball. One phrase again: "Como Dios Manda".

Fifth-Eighth Place Games

We saw relatively good games from the out-of-medal-contention teams. Turkey beat Lithuania. It's tough to play after being "eliminated." Although it's an odd circumstance, it's part of team sports on the international scene because it factors into FIBA rankings. Ermal Kurtoglu was enormous for the winners with 24 points in the overtime game.

Also, France beat Germany. After scoring 20 points the entire tournament Joseph Gomis had 17, and France finally got production from the point guard position. Ronny Turiaf also finally got some minutes.

Posted by Tim Shea on August 30, 2006

The U.S. and Greece play Friday in the Semi-Finals. Two undefeated teams vying for a spot in the gold medal game. Here's a look at both squads:

Scouting Report on Greece

Dimitrios Diamantidis is averaging four steals per game.
Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images/NBAE

When you talk about Greece, there's one name and one name only: coach Panagiotis Yannakis. He is Greece.

He is the face of not only the national team but the Greek basketball federation, in the sense that he was a great player who could have played in the NBA. Back in those days it was unheard of to have a big guard. He was probably one of the best guards ever to play in Europe because he knew one thing very well: how to win.

Whether it's the zone, run-and-gun defense, or when to take a team down low, Greece knows how to do it. They know when to pick up the speed and rhthym of the game, and they practice great shot selection and are very good passers. As a group, they know exactly what Yannakis is thinking on the sidelines as to how they can win the game. That's what he's taught them. They will sacrifice under his leadership. With Yannakis, players who have been accused as only being able to play as individuals and not within a team structure, play perfectly under him.

I am talking specifically about former Grizzlies swingman Antonis Fotsis, a 6-10 combo forward and wonderful talent. He's shooting 47 percent from three-point range and over 60 percent on his two-point shots in Japan. He's playing very much within himself. That's what Yanakis brings to the table, and what Greece brings to the table against the United States.

It's a tough, tight group who maybe in the end isn't able to compete with the Americans athletically, but basketball-wise, between Greece, Spain and Argentina, there are no better teams in the world.

Dimitrios Diamantidis -- the diamond -- has played very, very well in the Worlds as has 6-11 center Lazaros Papadopoulos, who gives to Greece his inside know-how. Those players in particular are key.

Sofoklis Schortsianitis, a.k.a. Baby Shaq, comes off the bench. He could still lose some pounds. If he can do that, he can contribute in the NBA -- the Clippers own his NBA rights.

Greece is a very solid team that is going to know what they have to do to win against the United States.

Scouting Report on Team USA

Team USA didn't look invincible against Germany.
Kimura Kamoshida/Getty Images/NBAE

The United States' chances in the Semi-Finals game are very, very good. At any moment they are capable of demonstrating their talent and athleticism. A word of caution, however: I don't think the coaches are completely happy with Team USA's performance against Germany. I would hope in the contest versus Greece, the United States has learned its lesson from today's game about attacking a simple 2-3 zone.

Even if it's a sagging zone or a tight zone, there are ways to attack it. The United States today put together only five good minutes of basketball. In those five minutes they took a 15-point lead and held on. They don't seem to feel threatened. They seem to feel "Show us first, then we'll pick it up."

If they do that against Greece, which is a higher-level team than Germany both talent and production-wise, then the U.S. may have a surprise ending to the story of Dream Team, Jr.

That being said, there's no one more optimistic than me that Team USA can beat Greece, or Spain and Argentina. The question is, "Will it?"

Looking at today's game there are plenty of reasons for the coaches to be questioning how the players will respond when they see the zone against Greece, and I am sure they will see the zone. As the competition goes along, the teams get better. I didn't see a progression in the United States' play from the beginning of the tournament. Hopefully today will be enough of a shock for them to realize that the competition is getting better.

The fact that a very big contributor for Greece, Nikos Zisis, was literally "taken out" of the tournament on a flagrant foul by Anderson Varejao, yet Greece still moves on, which shows something. When you have a structure with the right pieces, Yannakis can change the context of the book, and have everyone re-define their roles within that context. When I talk about context, I mean defining basketball as very simply, a five-man team game.

What worries me about the U.S. is that it’s a beautiful cover but they are not showing the context of basketball at the same level as the other three teams. They can still win by being the best individual players in the world. Basketball-wise, Team USA finishes last in a four horse race with Argentina, Spain and Greece.

As for the Spain-Argentina Game...

Spain is like a train. Pouncing on every weakness that the other team presents. Playing a high level of basketball. They've got Pau Gasol, Juan Carlos Navarro, Jorge Garbajosa, who is actually in a batting slump right now.

They are a whole team functioning very well. They are an excellent passing team, athletic, intense, optimistic, still young and well-coached. They get enough done defensively to win. They have gone undefeated in the friendlies and all seven WBC games based on their own merit, there's been no luck involved in those wins.

Argentina is by far the best passing team in the world. There isn't a team that come close to the passing skills, understanding of angles, ball-movement and player movement -- both on the interior and exterior. It's not just their guards, Oberto and Scola are excellent interior passers.

Most of the players on Argentina have played or currently play professionally in Spain. These teams know each other like brothers. This game will be decided by very small factors, psychological occurrences, and very little else. It's going to be a historical game for both sides. Right now I'd give a slight edge to Argentina based on their experience but Spain is on a roll and there will be no betting coming out of my wallet. Spain won both exhibition games by 20 points over Argentina. But Argentina was just warming up, and they've shown in the tournament their dominance.

Posted by Tim Shea on August 27, 2006

Here's a look at today's games in the Eighth Finals:

Greece 95, China 64: Greece slaughtered China and made it look easy. Some of their tactics included making China handle pressure and taking the basketball to the hole one way or another. Greece fed the ball inside specifically to Lazaros "Rising to the Occasion" Papadopoulos. With his Fred Astaire-like footwork and his unique hook shot, he went over and around Yao Ming.

Special mention to one of my favorites: Dimitrios Diamantidis. The Greek guard is having an outstanding tournament both stat-wise and with his quality play. He's also a lefty.

Yao got little help inside. The Chinese team, surprisingly cheered on by the Japanese fans, lost the compass and forgot which way was north. When pressed -- "run and jumped" by Greece -- they needed to go to second options to counter that with post flashes, back door cuts and help side blocks, etc.

China simply lost it and by the third quarter already had 22 turnovers. They will learn from this and get better. Finally, if Yi Jianlian is really as young as is listed, then we have our next Asian NBA player.

USA 113, Australia, 73: USA is on cruise control. The balance on USA score sheet attests to the fact that the coaches are getting the job done with the young stars. They used defense in closing out the Australians. Dwyane Wade and the super subs again played key roles. They're getting it done.

France 68, Angola 62: France wins by "los pelos" -- by a hair. Hats off to Angola in a very trying and hard fought contest. France is still looking for the solution to the Tony Parker problem. Maybe Boris Diaw will be playing some point soon?

Germany 78, Nigeria 77: Nigeria can leave with their heads held high. They were eliminated but not forgotten. Constant progress and hard work has enabled them to move up on the world stage.

And here we have some potential medal winners: Argentina takes on Turkey and Spain faces Lithuania in the first day of games of the Quarter Finals. Anything can happen from here on in and although Argentina and Spain are favorites, all these teams have been here before. History will tell. The quick scouting report? Spain is a high speed Train, Turkey like Beef Jerky, Lithuania as in Arvydas Macijauskas and Argentina a Winnnna.

And getting back to Mililic Darko is going to be a good. No doubt about that. Back on Detroit, however, he was not ready to consistently contribute for an NBA title-winning team. Now, playing with Dwight Howard, he could shine. And I like lefties.

Posted by Tim Shea on August 26, 2006

Here's a look at today's games in the Eighth Finals:

Lithuania 71, Italy 68: Italian NBA prospect Marco Belinelli never “got out of the gate” and Italy came up short in a close, well-played game. The former Hornets guard Macijauskas carried his team to victory. Italy was very slow-footed in the paint today.

Spain 87, Serbia & Montenegro 75: Spain dominated Serbia & Montenegro. It was no contest. Spain got out of the gate and dominated a discombobulated Serbian team. Spain demonstrated excellent preparation and played some "Show Time" basketball for the fans. Looking back, what made Yugoslavian teams so very good on the international scene for so many years was one word: Discipline (well, talent too!). They lack that now, and they also lack a true leader and a winners mentality. They are playing much more individually than yesteryear. The team execution has disappeared.

Turkey 90, Slovenia 84: Slovenia lost for a lack of clear objectives, a lack of team focus. Turnovers in the final period were the dagger in the heart for Slovenia. I ask, I simply ask, how is it that Primoz Brezec -- an excellent outside shooter -- is not "set-up" even once to get one outside look? It seems to me that a team/coach has to adjust his style and mentality to what he has -- to what his players strengths are, and not vice-versa!

Argentina 79, New Zealand 62: Never trailing and playing at their own pace, the Argentinean team again had a strong showing. They had balance, discipline and everybody was on the same page. They are weapons that destroy.

Quick Hits

Teams need a point guard in sync with his coach: That is, I think, an obvious point. The teams doing well and playing productive basketball are the teams with that sync. It is simple and fundamental for success. Otherwise baby, you’re courting disaster.

Palming the ball = Walking: It is nice to see FIBA referees letting people play after so many years of "strict" interpretation of the game. But carrying the basketball must be an infraction. The line has to be drawn between players abusing the dribble and its correct use. One clear case is Rakosevic often taking three steps with his hand under the ball. Overall, however, the referees -- unlike the past -- have not been a factor in this FIBA tournament, so far at least.

Mililic is soft (with questionable hands): And Larry Brown was right. Mililic is a terrible defender. And in the NBA, if you don’t defend, you lose as the opponent looks to exploit you there.

And Finally: How about "Krumping," the aggressive, very visual, expressive dance mode which is flourishing in the Los Angeles suburbs. Wow.

Posted by Tim Shea on August 25, 2006

The Eighth Finals begin this weekend and the usual suspects are in the field of 16. Most of the matchups look pretty predictable, with only a pair of toss-ups.

Can Dirk lead his team past Nigeria?
Getty Images

2nd-3rd Place Finisher Games

Turkey (4-1) vs. Slovenia (2-3): Slovenia could give problems to Turkey. They match-up well. If Primoz Brezec and Rasho Nesterovic can bring their offensive skills to the table, they could be Turkey. Because Turkey inside, except for Fatih Solak, an old unknown 7-footer, is lacking. Brezec and Nesterovic can pretty much do what they want against him. Nevertheless, Turkey will probably win.

Italy (4-1) vs. Lithuania (3-2): This will be a shootout contest, but in the end, I think Lithuania will probably be missing one more gear in the gear box. Italy has a lot of weapons -- Belinelli has stepped way up. I'd have to put Italy as the favorite.

France (3-2) vs. Angola (3-2) & Germany (4-1) vs. Nigeria (2-3): These games are toss-ups and are tough to pick. Nigeria of course being a little bit weaker than Angola. France is obviously missing Tony. Anything can happen in these games. The other six, you pretty much know.

1st-2nd Place Finisher Games

United States (5-0) vs. Australia (2-3): This isn’t even a game. I think Australia is weaker than a couple of teams the United States faced in the first round that area already eliminated. Australia has been very disappointing.

Argentina (5-0) vs. New Zealand (2-3): You would expect very clearly the Argentineans. New Zealand has been a little better than yuck.

Spain (5-0) vs. Serbia & Montenegro (2-3): Serbia and Montenegro could surprise Spain but it will be very difficult. I'm still concerned about that moment where Spain is going to hit the downside of the curve, but they'll be playing very intensely. These games now are going to cost them extra physically to get by. Serbia is an up and coming presence on the court. It is functioning much better than it did on the court two weeks ago because it is a young team. But Spain is the winner.

Greece (5-0) vs. China (2-3): I don't think there's a contest. Greece is definitely the winner.

Soccer is King

I'd like to talk about a surprise occurrence in Spain, but not really surprising because I've been in Spain a long time and live here. I love Spain, I really do. But surprising when at midday sitting with my family watching the news while enjoying our lunch, the lead news story is that soccer is in preseason. The second news item was the sailing competition which is going on the coast of Spain. Then third, a small mention that the national team in basketball qualified for the next round.

It always shocks me. Even my wife, one of the few things she agrees with me on, is that it shouldn't be like that. The news is the Spanish basketball team, because watching them play, they are the best team ever in Spanish history, no question. The talent, the coaching level, the players' skills and their size.

Obviously it's surprising to see those things continue in Spain, whereas in the United States, baseball may be our national pastime, but the other sports have a chance to shine too. I think maybe here they should qualify soccer as the national pastime, and get over it, and look at the rest of the world and sports with equal light. If soccer has its own category as the national pastime, then it won't have to be hyped and marketed 99 percent of the time.

An Ugly Incident

I have to comment on Anderson Varejao being "brought up" sort to speak on charges of intentional violence against Zisis, who suffered a broken jaw in Brazil's game against Greece. Besides the fact that Varejao is not contributing, it turns out he's complaining about physical problems in his legs, lack of energy, and so on and so on. To be honest, I was never convinced of Anderson Varejao.

I never recommend him to my Charlotte Bobcats, although there were people who liked him. I'm always afraid that either he's going to hurt somebody, or somebody is going to hurt him. I'd be interested to see the first time the Greeks play the Brazilians the first time they play international competition again, and If Anderson Varejao or somebody else has to pay for the broken plates, as they say, for Varejao's actions. They were very, very unsportsman-like.

Posted by Tim Shea on August 23, 2006

Dwight Howard took a hard fall against Italy.
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images

The big surprise of the day was Lebanon beating France. Not only beating France but controlling the game. Tony Parker is "Mucho" Tony Parker. The word mucho meaning "very, very much." That's what his importance to that team is. Unless France can find a way out of that situation, they are going to struggle, as again they showed today.

We have one man on the American team who is doing a great, consistent job, and that's Chris Paul. The job being just keeping everyone happy with special mention of Dwight Howard, because of the feeds he receives under the basket from Paul. It looks like Chris can get to the basket at any point in time, and my hat goes off to him.

Meanwhile, it seems Hinrich is in a "batting slump." He can't hit the tweener and he can't hit the line drive that falls in for a cheap single. He's having a tough tournament so far, and his support is very important for this team because he's a good distributor. If he concentrates on distributing, he'll contribute much more to the U.S. effort.

We talked yesterday about three very good coaches, and again, Greece won, Turkey won and Italy gave the Americans a very good game that wasn't decided until the fourth quarter.

The Americans did make it a fullcourt game, I am glad to see that. Like I said yesterday, that's what they have to do. They did that, they used their bench. Coach K substituted LeBron James right in the first few minutes of the game to show the team, "if you're not defending well, that will be my criteria for subs."

That had an effect on the Americans. LeBron handled himself well, which is a credit to the team, the organization and himself. Things like that are important to keep a team together. He comes out of the game, applauds his teammates. It's always good to see that.

Looking at the results, Germany is getting back into it. Argentina won by 33. Australia has been very disappointing, with Lithuania taking care of them.

Bogut is having a very, very weak tournament. To be perfectly honest -- I'm from Brooklyn -- he can't guard anybody, right now. I don't know if that's the story for him, but in this World Championship, he's not capable of guarding anybody.

Quick Hits

Technically Speaking: In the NBA, when fouls are being committed at the end of a game, you're not allowed to foul anyone before the ball has been in-bounded. Otherwise it's a technical or a free throw, and possession of the ball. Whereas FIBA basketball, you are allowed to foul before the ball comes to the court, and it's just two free throws.

That's a large advantage to the defensive team because it saves time and you don't have a chance to make an offensive play. It's something that happened to Australia, who lost to Greece in the last six seconds. The "miraculous comeback" comeback had to do with that, and it's something FIBA has to look at in order to be more aligned with the NBA spirit of the game.

Anderson Varejao: One of the reasons Brazil is not doing as well as they could is because of his lack of support. He hasn't had a good tournament. He's been preoccupied. He's actually been accused by the media in Japan of playing dirty, throwing elbows and trying to hurt the Greek players. One of the reasons Brazil isn't doing very well is his lack of contribution.

Dwight Howard: It was an amazing recovery he had from his crash landing after he was low-bridged by an Italian player. The foul wasn't in bad faith, but Dwight was so high in the air -- I think any normal person would have broken at least 10 bones, and he got up and played a few minutes later. Tremendous recovery.

Marco Belinelli: He put an exclamation point on his future possibilities in the Draft of 2007 -- today against the U.S. he made a strong statement to that effect.

Angola: They've been playing well. Again, they gave the Spanish team a good run for their money but just weren't capable of staying with a very talented Spain.

Posted by Tim Shea on August 22, 2006

Italy coach Carlo Recalcati knows how to work the refs, and motivate his men.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images/NBAE

When you mention Greece, Turkey and Italy -- all undefeated thus far -- you think of three names, three great coaches. Three traditional "Untouchables" as they say over here, as Dan Peterson used to be.

Bogdan Tanjevicis of Turkey is a very versatile coach, who's done great work over the last few years. He's flexible with his lineups and will shift players to different spots on the floor.

Italy's Charles Recalcati -- it's Carlos, but everyone calls him Charlie -- is a wonderful person, a great strategic coach and a good motivator of men.

Finally, Panagiotis Yannakis in Greece is a good friend and a long time great player for Greece, when they won championships.

When you look at those three, they are able to get their teams prepared for these types of tournament. That's the difference their squads and some of the other teams in the competition with equal talent but poor records – they don't have the same level of coaching. It makes a big difference.

Spain is undefeated as well. They have traditionally always gotten out of the gate very quickly. It seems there is always a lot of pressure on them to win immediately. They've always done this. They do have an excellent team. The coaching substitutions are right on time. The young players are getting minutes – Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Rodriguez.

It could be what happens to them is that they peak too soon. That has to be something they watch. That might be the Achilles' heel for Spain -- they get out of the gate to quickly and miss half a revolution at the end of the tournament, and it costs them.

What Pepu's doing is rotating his players a lot to keep everybody fresh. He is using the bench a lot -- playing 10. When Felipe Reyes comes back he'll be using 11 or 12.

Pepu has no problem using anybody. Of course, we'll see as the tournament goes on, and the stakes become higher, and the elimination becomes direct, whether or not he maintains that. He has to in order to keep his principle actors fresh for what's going to be a very competitive second and third phase.

Looking at the boxscores of the other tournament favorite, the U.S., they are getting over 100 points in 40 minutes. Slovenia, who they just beat, was able to put up 97. Primoz Brezec did very well and I'm happy for him. This Slovenian team is not reaching their expectations, and I think there are some frustrations there.

I hope the U.S. keeps in mind that they create their offense from the defensive end, pure and simple. In the back of my mind, I think to myself, if I was there, I'd be saying it every minute: maintain the focus on the defensive end to create the offensive end. Make it a fullcourt game. There's really no team in the world that can stay with the United States if they maintain that.

It encourages the fullcourt game. In the halfcourt game, you have to worry about zones, ball movement. If a team is usually scoring over 100 points, and then they get into a 60 or 70 point game, they lose their rhythm. If it's a halfcourt rhythm, it is much more uncomfortable, and more of a toss up with a lower score.

With a big score, you know the U.S. is going to likely come out on top. Maintaining the game with a fullcourt dimension -- it all starts on the defensive end.

Posted by Tim Shea on August 21, 2006

The Angolan National Team is making progress and will meet Spain Wednesday, Aug. 23. Panama, New Zealand and Japan have been no match for Angola, and their game with Spain represents the first true test of how far they have really come.

Two of my favorite people "live" inside the Angolan experience. Special people. Both played for me while we won our National Championships in Benfica, Lisbon. Jean-Jacques Conceiçao and Jose Guimereis. The former was an NBA level athlete and one fine person now acting as Vice President of the Angolan Federation. The latter is already an institution for the Angolan nation, first as a player and now as an assistant coach.

My heart will be divided on Wednesday when they meet.

Spain is coming off another win, this time by 20 versus Nowitzki's Germany. Spain in my opinion is playing the absolute best basketball in the World Championship tournament: excellent defense, transition basketball on both ends, shot selection and ball movement.

Argentina is still undefeated with Venezuela, the latest victim, paying the price. Nocioni was injured while the Bobcats' Walter Herrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrmann again was the high scorer.

After an opening day loss to Argentina, France has pulled together and won two.

Serbia and Montenegro finally won a game at the hands of Lebanon. It was expected that the young Serbians would struggle in this tournament. In this, their third game, they took a halftime lead of 20 and never looked back. There is talent on this team. Hopefully, we will soon see a strong Serbia Montenegro. Which is good for European basketball. Always has been.

Posted by Tim Shea on August 20, 2006

Newest Charlotte Bobcats forward Walter Hermann led the way for Argentina with 23 points in 17 minutes. Spain routed Panama, and Panama is going from bad to worse. They look lost. Spain is like a train.

Italian shooting guard Marco Belinelli is making a statement for NBA draft 2007.

Unknown pivot Fatih Solak was a big contributor in the Turkey win. The seven-footer is showing constant progress over the last five years. In the game, Andrew Bogut went for eight points and four rebounds in 34 minutes. Solak had eight points and six rebounds in 14 minutes. Am I missing something here?

It was an overtime win for Greece over Lithuania. Greece was disciplined like their coach. Lithuania is missing big shots, and missing Jasikavicius big-time.

The U.S. controlled China easily. It was a better demonstration for them today. Dwyane Wade is bringing home the bacon. He's a true quiet assassin.

Serbia and Montenegro lost again with France's Boris Diaw leading the way on the winning side. Darko Milicic does not like physical contact. It was good overall refereeing in most of the game. One question, though: If it is a walking violation to move ones feet (under defensive pressure) attacking the basket, is it not a violation to move ones feet (under defensive pressure)away from the basket?

Posted by Tim Shea on August 19, 2006

It was a long awaited opening day. Everyone got their feet wet, and some got them soaked. USA went through the motions, Africa's representatives picked up quick, important wins and Venezuela continued its downward spiral.

It was a relatively easy victory for Team USA. The U.S. men looked relaxed and without a worry, but be careful. Either USA disrespected Puerto Rico or themselves. Either way, they have to be careful.

The talent is there for Puerto Rico. They seem happy to imitate rather than innovate during games. A team with character never imitates.

It was an important victory for Turkey over Lithuania -- Arvydas Macijauskas being the only real scoring reference for Lithuania. Folks are still waiting for Darius Songalia to consistently get to the "next level." The game was a "toss up" with the coin falling on Turkey's side.

Spain easily defeated New Zealand. Pau Gasol and Co. continued to demonstrate not only do they have superior individuals but they have teamwork and dedication to the game.

Nigeria beat the invited Serbia and Montenegro, who did not qualify and earned the wild card from FIBA. It's one thing and one thing alone: a wake up call. Serbia and Montenegro started the game in a zone defense, which was quickly destroyed. Once broken, as is the rule, it was downhill for them. For Nigeria, New York Knicks guard Ime Udoka was the leader. Who says the Knicks can't do anything right?

France losing to Argentina was not a surprise without the great Tony Parker in the lineup. Ginobili and Nocioni carried the load for the winners, and it could be an important victory in that group.

Mark Washington was the determining factor for a very disciplined Australia. Bogut wa a presence in the paint. Brazil committed 25 turnovers.

Venezuala lost to Lebanon by 10, 82-72. El Khatib of Lebanon, a powerful player, went for 35 and former NBA draft pick Joe Vogel followed with 26 to lead the way. After fleeing the country in a bus when the recent bombings began, Lebanon showed one thing: they can score. Venezuela continues to show they are in a nose dive.

Posted by Tim Shea on August 18, 2006

Tony Parker being injured and eliminated for the FIBA World Championships Tournament is a terrible blow to the French Team's aspirations. I always felt that "as Tony goes so goes the French National Team."

France now has to look to 28-year-old Joseph Gomis, who is a 5-11 point guard who plays in the Spanish ACB with Valladolid.

Otherwise, they must change styles. At this late date, leading into the Tournament, it might not be such a good idea. Ultimately it is a terrible blow to the French's hope of finishing in the medals area.

Posted by Tim Shea on August 18, 2006

After the Athens' Olympics, a fire was lit under the Americans.
Jamie Squire/NBAE/Getty Images
I'm very, very happy. I'm happy the United States is going to have a good representation, which has been the missing ingredient over the last eight years. The missing ingredient being putting a strong team on the court, a well-coached team, with a high criteria for the roster selection.

The most important thing was Jerry Colangelo asking to be involved, and everything has improved from there. I think the World Championship is going to demonstrate that the U.S. is back on track. The rest of the world is going to realize they awoke a sleeping giant, and he is back to show the best basketball is played by the Americans.

Spain is close behind. They've had a very good exhibition run, it's been extremely positive for them. They have a new playing style in the sense that new head coach Pepu Hernandez, as a long time coach of Estudiantes Madrid, played this kind of basketball: good defense, a lot of help, a lot of team defense.

Obviously Spain has Pau Gasol, Juan Carlos Navero and Jose Calderon -- it's a strong team. They've got promising Blazers guard Sergio Rodriguez getting minutes, something that didn't happen in the 2004 Olympics. Sergio and Rudy Fernandez, both young players, do bring a new attitude to the national team, which is based a little bit on "Showtime." Right now we know Spain is going to be a competitor for one of the medals.

Argentina is going to have more trouble because of the different leagues all their players competed in last year. Their play depends on coordination and synchronization. Walter Hermann comes from one competition, where Ginobili comes from another, whereas Oberto comes from that same competition but didn't play a lot.

"The rest of the world is going to realize they awoke a sleeping giant."
Oberto's kind of lost. He did look very rusty and out of place in all the exhibition games I've seen. Argentina is going to have a tougher time than expected unless they pickup where they left off, which is not easy. They may be a little under the weather going into this tournament.

France and Greece could be surprises. Great coaching on Greece – Panagiotis Yannakis. He knows how to prepare for these tournaments. Serbia and Montenegro is going to be a young team of which obviously the sky is the limit. But when those young players come up against the young players the Americans put together combined with the veterans, they are going to see that they are fighting for second place.

That's what this tournament is going to be about: who's fighting for second and third place. Of the other teams, Germany has an outside chance. Hopefully Slovenia will play better defense than they've shown so far in exhibitions. Brazil could come in and surprise people. But right now, the U.S., France, Spain and Argentina are the main actors.

But with France, they don't play big. That's always been the problem for France. They're very talented, the majority of their players are athletic. We'll see now if Johan Petro of the Sonics, who received the last roster spot on the national team, is going to get playing time.

Argentina could run into trouble in Japan.
Chris McGrath/NBAE/Getty Images
I don't see France being able to play certain types of basketball. If they get into a zone, which they've shown themselves capable of, they could be the wildcard, the Joker of the tournament.

Argentina may have a hard time competing against France because they're very much on the same page from what I've seen. France is very dependent on Tony Parker, just as Germany is very dependent on Dirk Nowitzki. Those are the keys for those teams whereas Spain has a strong bench.

Lithuania could pick it up but they are missing Pacers guard Sarunas Jasikevicius, which is a big M.I.A. for them. Italy is in a developmental stage but could also come together at the right moment. Carlo Recalcati is an excellent coach and a wonderful organizer, so I can see them becoming difficult for teams to handle, especially if their shooter Marco Belinelli gets hot.

After Athens, Indianapolis and even Sydney, I'm very happy the U.S. has a completely new look. We have the younger players, the future out on the court, as well as great coaching. The shop has be rearranged to function in the modern basketball world.

I've lived most of my time in Europe, and obviously as an American, I like to be proud that USA Basketball and the NBA have gotten on the same page. They have reunited the best coaches with the best players and best structure, and will demonstrate this is an American game.

It's become much stronger worldwide, but as a former president once said, "the buck stops here."