Labor Day Weekend is one of my favorites in NYC for one reason: The West Indian Day Parade. Having been born and raised in Seattle, essentially a small town if you’re Black, simply being around 2-3 million people who look like me is something that has to be experienced to be believed. And everybody is wrapped in their national flags — Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad, St. Croix, etc. — in one of the most colorful, upbeat parties you’ll ever see.
But the parade sparks some jealously, I have to admit. As cool as it is to see the national pride on display, as an American, the fact that I don’t know my own ancestry going back to Africa truly sinks in. Clinging onto one country and one flag is outside of my scope.
As a result, for events like the World Cup and the Olympics, I find myself rooting for every African nation as well as the USA. So aside from Chauncey Billups and crew beasting most of the comp, it hasn’t been a good World Championship for me. Going in, I thought Angola and Ivory Coast were the only two African reps, and they’ve gone 2-6 in pool play. Then I just found out this week that Tunisia is actually in Africa (the northernmost country), and had to add their 0-4 record to the bunch.
So I’m split on this game. I’d like Tunisia to make a good showing and pick up at least one W during the tourney, but like the U.S./Iran game yesterday, we all know how this is going to end.
- Some coaches will yell and criticize their teams the most after a win, while taking a more quiet and supportive tone after a loss. (For a textbook example, read The Assist by Neil Swidney, about Boston-area high school coach Jack O’Brien.) I wonder how Coach K came at his team following the Iran game. While the U.S. won easy, they didn’t bring their A-game, or even their B-plus game. If Coach K laid into them in the locker room, we could see a more focused and sharp group today. If they’re feeling invincible after erasing the Brazil nail-biter with a blowout, this game won’t be pretty.
- Oh, and I’d be wrong not to mention the female eye candy at the West Indian Day Parade: KUH-RAY-ZEE.
- I’m not gonna lie, me getting to the Dime office before 10 a.m. happens about as often as Eddie Murphy turning down a script. When your body is wired to stay up past 1-2 a.m. working, the morning is a monster. So as I walk in it’s about three minutes into the game, and the U.S. is down 5-4. What?
- Same starting lineup as usual: D-Rose, Chauncey, Iguodala, Durant and Odom. Tunisia has five guys I’ve never seen before, including #4, who looks like he’s 50 years old.
- Durant starts going to work, and the U.S. takes a 13-8 lead with under three minutes to go in the quarter. Again, there’s hardly anybody at this game, at least not in the TV-visible seats. Is it the time of day, the unappealing matchup, or Team USA’s lack of mainstream star power?
- Play-by-play man (Dan Shulman?) says Tunisia is “staying well within handling distance” as they cut the lead to 13-11.
- Judging a book by its cover is bad, but #4 looks like he should never, ever score on Iguodala. OK, his name is Radhouane Slimane, and he was born in 1980. I’m not buying it. That dude graduated from high school in 1980.
- Tunisia runs a “continuity” offense, which involves a ton of off-ball movement and apparently a lot of fadeaway jumpers. I get the feeling they’ve been influenced by Jordan and Kobe.
- The U.S. starters played the entire first quarter, and are up 19-13. The second quarter begins with Stephen Curry, Eric Gordon, Rudy Gay, Russell Westbrook and Tyson Chandler on the court.
- Tunisia’s center, Salah Mejri, is 7-1 and reportedly has potential. Fran Fraschilla says he’s not as polished as Hamed Haddadi or Ante Tomic. Is that good?
- To answer a reader’s question, Tunisia looks like a poor man’s version of the Iranian team. Their PG looks like he can shoot, the young big guy looks mobile enough, and we’re probably in for about 6-7 “feisty” mentions today. They’re down 28-21 with six minutes to go in the first half.
- Rudy Gay realized nobody on this team should be able to guard him, so he makes a nice move to the rack and … hits all glass. How good do you think Rudy is going to be in Memphis? How close will he come to the Scottie Pippen comparisons he’s been getting since high school?
- When ESPN showed a shot of the USA bench, somebody in the office said, “Yo, did they sleep last night?” Answer: “No. They all look like bums.”
- Wide-angle shot of the arena establishes that … yeah, there’s nobody at this game.
- Kevin Love checks in and immediately jacks a three. Team USA hasn’t hit one yet. These white unis are doing nothing for his complexion. He looks like he’s naked with #13 tattooed on his stomach.
- Tunisia’s Macram Ben Romdhane (6-8) throws down a dunk on the break to cut the lead to two. Gordon responds with a three and a dunk off a cut to the rim, but Tunisia keeps getting surprisingly easy buckets. It’s 37-33 with under a minute to go in the half.
- “This would be the biggest upset in the history of FIBA World Championship basketball” is Tunisia wins, Shulman says. It’ll be a huge upset if this is still close in the fourth quarter.
- Curry blocks a three-point attempt, leading to a Westbrook breakaway dunk to close the half. 39-33, USA.
- Weird game so far. Against Iran, the U.S. was trying to blow them out by 50 and paid for it with mistakes that came from trying to be too fancy. In this game, it’s like they’ve gone the other way and are playing too tight. And the defense is worse this game.
- Rose, Billups, Iguodala, Durant and Odom back on the floor to start the second half. They almost immediately get split open for another easy layup by Tunisia, but Durant and Billups respond with buckets to push the lead to 10.
- Tunisian forward Mohamed Hadidane drives the lane, fakes a pass like Magic-on-Sprewell and gets a nice finger roll. “They’ve already won the game,” Fraschilla says, clarifying that simply staying close to the U.S. is like a win for Tunisia. Meanwhile, they keep getting wide-open looks right under the basket.
- Iguodala takes a three that goes clear past the rim and catches only a little bit of backboard. Whereas Chauncey is just missing shots in this tournament, Iguodala is missing EVERYTHING. His bricks are uglier than Jamie Foxx in drag.
- Rose gets a layup in transition to make it a 10-point game again. He’s pissed because on an earlier play, his defender ran into him like a linebacker and there was no whistle.
- The USA offense is going to have to save the defense in this one. They can’t figure out this “continuity” offense and are giving up wide-open layup that Tunisia creates with simple cuts and back-picks and screen-and-rolls.
- On that note, Gordon gets a steal near halfcourt and turns it into a two-hand dunk on the breakaway. Chandler gets his shot stuffed at the rim, but Tunisia can’t convert it into a score. It’s 55-44 with two minutes left in the quarter.
- GREAT camera shot of Iguodala on the bench going through about 6 different facial expressions of disappointment and disgust. I feel like I just watched him take a dump.
- Why does #10 on Tunisia have fangs?
- Curry hits a corner three, and one of Tunisia’s guys beasted Danny Granger for an offensive rebound and bucket. That wasn’t a good look for the guy I’ve been saying needs more playing time from Coach K. End of the quarter, 63-46 USA.
- Gordon hits another three. “He’s just making H.O.R.S.E. shots right now,” Fraschilla says.
- Granger dives on the floor for a loose ball, doesn’t lose his teeth, and helps set up Westbrook for a breakway dunk. The bench has brought some energy to an otherwise subdued U.S. team that seems to be running at scrimmage-speed all game.
- Love’s putback makes it 78-47, and Gordon gets another steal that would have led to a Curry layup, but Slimane (“My high school chemistry teacher!” screams Fraschilla) sends it to the falafel man.
- Fraschilla says Angola is both “scrappy” and “athletic.” Is that possible? Doesn’t he know that only Black teams are athletic and only White teams are scrappy?
- Oddly enough, Curry has been the guy making the most mistakes trying to make highlights. Fraschilla snorts, “Save that for the Warriors.” If I had to guess one dude would play himself out of the rotation due to sloppy play, it would have been Westbrook or maybe even D-Rose. If Mark Jackson were here, he’d be telling Curry he’s better than that.
- USA is up 82-55 with under three minutes to play. Dime’s Aron Phillips asks, “When is Westbrook going to start etching stuff in the side of his head? It’s time.” Nah, it’s never a good time for that.
- The young Tunisian center (#15) gets blocked by the rim on a follow dunk attempt, then has his second shot blocked, then has the ball smack him in the face on its way out of bounds. Not a sequence for his agent’s highlight reel.
- All Westbrook does it dunk. He catches a two-hander with a rim-swinging finish. If Team USA had an inter-squad dunk contest, who wins it?
- Final score, 92-57. That wasn’t as easy as it looked. The U.S. defense was pretty bad most of the way, especially in the halfcourt. It helped that Gordon showed up offensively and that Westbrook and Love provided energy inside and outside. It also helped that Tunisia doesn’t quite know how to play transition basketball and missed a lot of open jumpers. I wouldn’t say Team USA was ever in danger of losing, but they were in danger of looking extremely vulnerable going into the knockout round.