Like a boxer who just lost a hard-fought 12-rounder against an opponent who he realizes may be unbeatable to him, Pau Gasol is thinking retirement. Asked if he’d play in next summer’s FIBA EuroBasket tournament in Poland, Gasol told reporters after the USA/Spain gold medal game, “Maybe I’ll be there as a TV commentator.” Like Dirk, Pau may be looking at his NBA championship window as one that won’t be open forever, and with his international resume more than Hall of Fame worthy with an Olympic silver, a World Championship gold, and undeniable status as one of the best in the FIBA game, can step away from representing his country with his head up … Manu Ginobili, also nursing wounds from the Olympic tourney, said he has squared everything away with Gregg Popovich. “I talked to Pop, and he’s definitely fine,” Ginobili said. “He understands the whole situation. He understands the way I feel about all of this (playing for Argentina). I bet my ass that if Pop was a player, he’d have done the same thing. I’m totally sure about what I’ve done. I’m proud and I’m happy.” Pop may understand, but he can’t be happy about it. The Southwest Division is gonna be murderous next year — Houston improved with the Ron Artest trade, New Orleans improved with the James Posey signing, and Dallas has a whole year to mesh with Jason Kidd — and the Spurs need Manu ready to go for as many games as possible … And you have to wonder how the Bulls feel about Andres Nocioni playing through knee tendinitis in the bronze medal game (he still put up 14 points and eight boards). Although with the way Chicago’s front office has been running things for the last couple of years, they may not even be aware that Noce was in Beijing … We’ll be the first to admit Juan Carlos Navarro was dope in the gold medal game, sticking teardrop runners all over the place and generally making life miserable for Deron Williams, but people need to calm down putting J.C. up there with guys like Manu as an NBA contributor. Navarro didn’t do anything in the Olympic bracket before Sunday — he shot 20% from three and his only other double-digit scoring game was against Angola — and the big moments when he played for the Grizzlies were few and far between. Navarro can be good as an NBA player, and you could say his talents were wasted in Memphis and he’d be better on a contending team, but let’s not go stitching his All-Star jersey yet after one game … We’ve seen a lot of nit-picking (just call it hating) on Team USA since the gold medal game. If that’s you, take a second and realize what it looks like to criticize a team who just went unbeaten against the best in the world, winning most of their games by at least 30 points and winning their penultimate contest by double digits. Fault-finding after the fact just looks silly. And yes, we’d say the same thing if it was Spain, Argentina, Lithuania or anyone else running through the Olympics unscathed. You don’t see anyone still hating on the Chinese gymnastics team, do you? Wait, that was a bad example … So looking ahead to London 2012, you’ve gotta think anyone on this year’s U.S. squad who wants in should get a spot just out of respect. We can see Carmelo, LeBron, Chris Bosh, Kobe, Dwight Howard, D-Wade, Chris Paul and Deron being down. But J-Kidd will be almost 40 by then, so it’s doubtful he’ll even be playing anymore. If Tayshaun has four more years of deep playoff runs under his belt, he might opt out. Mike Redd is going to look older than he actually is (33) at that point, but we can see him taking a pass nonetheless. And Carlos Boozer? After two straight Olympics of not getting much PT, he might just take his gold medal and call it a FIBA career. So if those four sports are open, who gets them? Rajon Rondo would look good in that third PG spot, maybe even Derrick Rose or Monta Ellis. Redd’s sniper role can be handed to Kevin Durant or Gilbert Arenas. Tayshaun’s lock-down D/glue guy steez, that can be Josh Smith or Josh Howard. And Boozer can be replaced by Amare, Elton Brand or Mike Beasley. And don’t count out KG wanting to make a career-capping run for gold … If you’ve picked up Dime’s Olympic issue, you saw our Beijing “Players 2 Watch” feature. Looking back at how our picks fared: Kobe averaged 15 points per and was the story of the gold medal game; Chinese PG Liu Wei put up 8.5 ppg, including 19 in the near-upset of Spain; Australia PG C.J. Bruton went for 6.5 points and three assists per, with a 22-point, six-dime showing against Russia, although his thunder was stolen by Patty Mills (who we also profiled in the issue); Iran’s Hamed Ehadadi made more waves with the mini-furor caused over whether he could negotiate with NBA teams, but the 7-2 giant managed 16.6 points and 11.2 boards on the court, giving everyone from Argentina to Lithuania the business; Andrei Kirilenko put up 15.8 points, 6.4 boards, 3.4 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.2 blocks, but his defending European champion Russian squad was a disappointment as they failed to make the medal round; Angolan PF Eduardo Mingas was good for 15.2 ppg, posting 24 on Dirk and 23 on Greece; Pau Gasol did his thing to the tune of 19.6 points and seven boards a night (on 65% from the field), with a 31-point showing against Angola and a 29-spot against China … And then there was Rudy Fernandez (13.1 ppg). The gold medal game only confirmed that Blazers’ followers should be giddy they’re getting that guy (we still can’t get over that cram on Dwight Howard), but some people in Portland are more preoccupied by Boston signing Darius Miles. Oregonian reporter John Canzano writes, “Anyone else think Danny Ainge is employing some strategy here or working with another NBA team to try and sabotage the Blazers’ salary-cap flexibility? Yeah, me too.” If D-Miles plays 10 games for Boston on those alleged toothpicks-and-Elmer’s-glue knees, the Blazers have to pay him, which doesn’t look good for their cap space. “Could Boston be angling for a free agent handled by Miles’ agent? Could another Western Conference team be encouraging Ainge to make this happen to keep the Blazers down?” Canzano asked. We’re guessing “No” on that agent question, seeing as the other listed clients of D-Miles’ guy are Larry Hughes and Q-Rich … Before heading to Italy to play with Premiata Montegranaro, Shawn Kemp dropped 25 points and 16 boards in a 3BA game at KeyArena over the weekend. A couple variables to consider: 3BA is played on a 72-foot long court, with an 18-second shot clock and 22-foot three-point line, and most of the players we’ve heard of who are involved are above-average to average former college guys. The game was on TV in some West Coast locales, and the reports we heard from our correspondents is that The Reignman is looking bald and pudgy, and 3BA coach A.C. Green looked like he could have run his ass out of the gym. Kemp said he’s back to his playing weight from the Sonics’ NBA Finals run, about 250-260, but at this point we’ve accepted that Shawn Kemp Jr. — a up-and-coming high schooler in Georgia — will play in the NBA before he dad does again … Dennis Rodman is going to be on Season Two of “Celebrity Apprentice.” Would you EVER hire Worm to work for you in any field besides basketball? Who’s gonna write his letter of recommendation, Jack Haley? … We’re out like plotting to get Q-Rich …
Smack / Aug 25, 2008 / 12:32 am
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