Tuesday, 23 August 2011
ALL THE WORDS STAGE
'London Prepares' an invitational Basketball tournament a year before the Olympics.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
OK, so the 2012 Olympics may be less than a year away but last week London held an invitational basketball tournament this last week to help the city and some of the fans and teams get ready for next years biggest event on the sporting calender. Six top teams from around the continents of the world faced off with each other in the new Lemon Meringue, dessert looking Basketball stadium as a starter for things to come. With five days of basketball with three games in each fans where left full with as much talented basketball as they could lap up. 'BASKETBALL 24/48/82' was on hand on Saturday to join those taking in the action but let's take a look back at the entire working week of games and look at each team in the order of how they finally came out in the final standings of the leaders table.
FRANCE: The French team have the ability to field five NBA players as their starting team and that may just be the reason why they won all five games in this tournament. Tony Parker was dishing behind his back, revealing the player of old while Chicago Bull Joakim Noah was just an outstanding player in his own right yet again. Nicolas Batum again was on the rise, while Boris Diaw showed the flashes of brightness that made him a premier Phoenix Sun. Florent Piétrus also made up for the absence of his brother Mickaël Piétrus while the injured Ronny Turiaf made up for his on-court absence with his usual passion and team promotion off the bench. In fact the whole French team spoke the right language as they said Au Revoir to all their opponents. Ooh la, la!
AUSTRALIA (AUS BOOMERS): Here comes the boom...and in a big way. Even without NBA star Andrew Bogut this team wasn't a bust. Led by Portland Trail Blazer Patrick Mills this team led a trail showing the world that they weren't down under and below their top ten world rank (number 9). With top performances from guys like Mark Worthington and Joe Ingles these players where efficient across the board forming one of the tournaments most cohesive and put together teams. They lost only to tourney winners France and boomeranged from their second day defeat to win the rest of the week. After a wonderful weekend they showed the fans who stayed after Team G.B's game on Saturday that they where worth the watch and wait. Getting closer to the action courtside we could really see and hear just how competitive and effectively run this team were. When the Olympics come calling next year, everyone will see and hear so much more.
CROATIA: The Croatian nation are full of more than just ballplayers most commentators found hard to pronounce, they are stacked to the rafters of jersey retirement worthy players. Boston Celtic Marko Popović know how to get it popping, while Croatian league favourite, but not exactly home-bred Dontaye Draper gives this nation a whole different dimension. When Saturday came the Croatians lost big to France, but to close out the weekend and the tournament they blew out China. Croatia may have also lost to the Aussie's but they won the Serbian grudge match and showed the hosts what troubles they could have next year. Britain are good, but the 'great' right now resides in Croatia.
SERBIA: Sure things could have gone a little better for Serbia, but even after losing three games they still played hard and managed to squeeze two good wins out the tournament. They matched Australia's toughness and competitive fire on a hard fought last game on Saturday and they beat up on Great Britain and made China hit a wall. Behind great players like the Nba's Nenad Krstic and the tough Stefan Markovic the nation showed they had a lot up front and with a points percentage of 103.08 they proved they could put up numbers with the big boys. Don't count them out for next years big stage.
GREAT BRITAIN: On Saturday we saw the British team win their one and only game against China and even though where democratic (being based in the U.K after all) it was a strong performance. This team showed the improvements that were necessary for them to qualify for their own hosted Olympics next year. Even in their losses they showed heart and a soul to their team. Even without NBA star Ben Gordon, poster boy Pops Mensah-Bonsu or their captain Drew Sullivan, this team showed a lot of promise behind their torch-carrier and biggest star and national pride attraction Luol Deng. The Chicago star was charging and on fire with some power plays also being a block away from another win. The whole British team looks good however from Robert Archibald to Daniel Clark, proving there much more than what's on paper. Sure they didn't unfold in this competition but they sure look worthwhile for 2012.
CHINA: The Yao Ming dynasty may be over and this team may have suffered a death in this tournament-losing every game-but still you best believe this Asian nation is still alive and on the rise. They are far from over or done, look for them next year to run. You see their record in this tournament reflects more the overall talent pool of this invitational than their 'lack of'. Sure improvements must be made but we fancy this Chinese side. They displayed toughness and competitiveness against the host nation and proved they where worthy of their invite. They won't be picked last next year too with great talent in depth and diversity. Yi Jianlian us a shot or two of improvement away from being the next big thing and he isn't the only one with moves or skills. Former Dallas Maverick Wang Zhizhi is champion off the bench and former Laker Sun Yue is a golden talent L.A. should have mined. Besides in a jersey ugly tournament they had the best kit and surely that must count for something. They'll be a good look for next year.
So there you have it, a nice little taster for things to come next year and a great couple of days in roundball to feed that 'Basketball Jones' which has been itching more with this lockout. All the nations locked it down and on the worlds stage in London showed that the future of international basketball is in safe palms. The development of the 2012 Olympics looks great, even if there is till overdue grounds work to be done in the Olympic Village. This city is ready, the world is watching and we can't wait for next year.