Kobe Bryant scored 27 points, including 15 in the first quarter, to lead Team USA to a 91-76 victory over Argentina to advance to the semifinals of the FIBA Americas Basketball Tournament. The Americans will face Puerto Rico, with the winner getting an automatic bid to the 2008 Olympics.
The first semifinal game will be between Brazil and Argentina, who will face off at 4pm EDT tomorrow, followed by the U.S. against Puerto Rico.
After calling Argentina a rival to the U.S., LeBron James responded by scoring 15 points, helping in a full team effort for the victory. Luis Scola led the Argentinians with 20 points.
Chien-Ming Wang went into the seventh inning with a no-hitter and Robinson Cano contributed two solo home runs, as the Yankees completed a three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox by winning 5-0 yesterday. The win brings the Yankees to within five games of the AL East lead and with a Seattle loss also gave them a full one game lead in the Wild Card.
Yankees rookie phenom Joba Chamberlain entered the game in the eighth and quickly dispensed of the Red Sox by only giving up one hit. After the Yankees tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the eighth off of Rookie of the Year candidate Hideki Okajima, thanks to an RBI double from Bobby Abreu and a two-run error by Jason Varitek following a double steal by Abreu and Alex Rodriguez, Chamberlain went back out in the ninth to close out the game. After getting David Ortiz to fly out to left, things got interesting.
Chamberlain unleashed a high fastball, which sailed over Kevin Youkilis’ head and slammed against the backstop. No warning was giving to Chamberlain, which made the following move a little surprising. Chamberlain’s next pitch also sailed over Youkilis’ head and home plate umpire Angel Hernandez immediately tossed the rookie from the game. After a brief discussion between Joe Torre and Hernandez, Chamberlain took a slow walk towards the dugout to a standing ovation from the Bronx faithful. Said Red Sox manager Terry Francona, “If that young man is trying to get our attention, he did a very good job.”
Edwar Ramirez followed Chamberlain for the last two outs of the game, including a strikeout.
The Yankees made a solid declaration that they are not out of the AL East hunt by beating the Red Sox three best pitchers in Daisuke Matsuzaka (Dice-K for New Englanders), Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling. Beckett has often been mentioned as a Cy Young candidate, but if he is to be included, so should Wang. They have the same record at this point at 16-6 and both have ERAs under 4. Beckett’s overall numbers are better at this point, but Wang is right behind him.
The Red Sox go back to Boston for a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles, which will be without lefty ace Erik Bedard, who was scratched from his Saturday start because of a strained muscle in his right side. The Yankees will host the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who will see Yankees rookie pitcher Ian Kennedy make his first Major League start on Saturday.
“It’s definitely become a rivalry between us,” said James regarding the Argentinian squad, which has beaten Team USA twice since they started using NBA players for the squad. The South American country became the first to defeat an NBA/Team USA team in the 2002 World Championship in Indianapolis, then beat them again in the 2004 Olympics in Athens. In between those two games, the Americans beat Argentina twice in the 2003 Tournament of the Americas, one by eight points and the other by 33 in the championship game.
However, regardless of what LeBron thinks, players for Argentina seem to disagree. “Our biggest rival is the team we are going to face on Saturday,” said Argentinian Carlos Delfino, who has taken a bigger role with the team since Manu Ginobili, Andres Nocioni, and Walter Herrmann all decided not to play this time around. All three are expected to play in next year’s Olympics. Argentina is the only other undefeated team in the tournament, but has not been winning quite at the pace that the Americans have.
Regardless of the past, Team USA should have no rivals on the international circuit. Despite not being successful the past couple of years, no one on that team should admit that another country is a rival, even one who has the talent to defeat the newest attempt at recreating the Dream Team.
If LeBron wants to fire up the other players on the team by convincing them that Argentina is a rival, so be it, but there is no reason to say it publicly and embarrass himself like he did.
ESPN.com’s Jim Caple just wrote a great piece about “Red Sox Nation.” Certainly worth a read. Some great quotes from the article:
“Red Sox fans, sadly, have taken over the mantle as the most obnoxious fans in sports.”
“As soon as the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, Boston fans took on a swaggering, entitled persona, acting as if they alone invented sports fandom and behaving as if nothing else in baseball mattered but them.”
“I would say that Red Sox fans need a humbling collapse — say, blowing a 14½ game lead in the standings or a 3-0 lead in the ALCS — but then we would just have to listen to them moan about that for another couple decades.”
“There has been a genuine excitement throughout our city and state, as well as internationally, following our selection of Yi in the NBA Draft,” Bucks owner and team president Herb Kohl said. “We all anticipate Yi’s arrival and welcome him and his family to Milwaukee. We look forward to a successful relationship for many years to come.”
The Chinese power forward had made it clear before the draft that he had no interest in playing for the Bucks, but the team decided to take a chance on him anyway. Yi is coming off a very strong season for the Guangdong Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association where he averaged 24.9 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. Yi also played in five games this summer with Team China Basketball in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas; he averaged 12.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots.
There were significant negotiations between Chinese officials, Bucks officials and representatives from Yi’s camp throughout the summer, possibly in an effort to get the star traded. However, the Bucks had no intention of letting go of their lottery pick, especially for cents on the dollar which they would have gotten if they decided to deal him somewhere else.
Luckily for the NBA, Yi’s camp was unable to force a trade and he will now suit up for the Bucks this fall.
Just another solid victory for democracy over communism!