2010 World Basketball Festival Is Officially Underway!
--USA Blue Team Wins First Sudden Death Overtime in USA Basketball History --
• Box Score (PDF)
The 15 finalists for the 2010 USA Basketball Men’s World Championship Team, coaching staff and support staff all departed their hotel this afternoon, bound for Radio City Music Hall and tonight’s tip-off of the World Basketball Festival.
Arriving at the iconic theater 15 minutes later, the U.S. was escorted up the elevators to the locker … err … dressing rooms to get ready for their pre-Festival shoot around.
Stepping out onto the court under the bright lights that are normally reserved for acts like the infamous Rockettes, the squad split off into their teams for tonight’s intra-squad scrimmage. The USA Blue Team, which featured Tyson Chandler, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Andre Igoudala, Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose, took turns sinking shots at stage left.
Lining up as if on cue on stage right, the USA White Team of Chauncey Billups, Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon, Danny Granger, Kevin Love, JaVale McGee, Lamar Odom, and Russell Westbrook, walked through plays and took their turns dropping shots.
The red, white and blue court stretched the entire length of the stage, but not to worry … there was plenty of room between the sideline and the orchestra pit. There was no chance of anyone falling off the stage. The banners hanging at both ends of the court were red, white and blue; and the lights lining the ceiling were also color-coded for the occasion.
Near the end of their practice time Igoudala banked in a long-range three. It’s a shame he wasn’t able to recreate that shot for the fans to see once the doors were open to the public. But trust us on this: it was a pretty sweet shot.
The guys exited stage right to their dressing room to await their turn on the court, missing all the great pre-game action that included a D.J., comedian, a basketball trick troupe, dancers, cheerleaders, and a marching band. You name the group, it had its turn on stage, much to the delight of the crowd.
Finally at 6:46 p.m. the teams tipped it off and it took about 43 seconds for Odom to hit the game’s first bucket – a 3-pointer, which wowed the fans, who were also treated to slam dunks, alley-oops, deft steals and eye-of-the-needle threaded passes.
However, unlike when the USA steps on the court Sunday against France, the game really didn’t matter as much as the hype and entertainment surrounding it. And it wasn’t just the fans in the seats who were treated to a great show befitting the legendary Radio City stage. USA National Team members and 2008 U.S. Olympic gold medalists Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade watched the next generation from their front-row seats on the court; as did 2004 Olympian Amar’e Stoudemire, who would have been here had it not been for insurance issues.
“You're so used to playing in big arenas; everywhere you look you see fans,” stated Durant after the game. “But this was a little different. That's what made it unique. The fans were into the game. That made it better for us, as well. But I think we were focused on trying to get better today, and it showed.”
The teams were well balanced, so well balanced that at the end of ‘regulation,’ the score was tied 47-all.
So, since the rest of the night was hoops with a twist, the extra period also contained a little something extra. Coach K decided that the game should end in a sudden death.
Make it, take it.
USA Blue won the tip and the ball found its way to Rondo, who moved the ball up the court. The first Blue shot was off the mark, but Chandler leapt up and tipped the ball back out to Rondo. He returned the favor several seconds later with a pin-point accurate, alley-oop pass to Chandler for the ‘golden basket’ and his only bucket of the game.
“Man, I don’t even know if I’ve ever been in sudden death game,” reflected Chandler. “I think that was my first.
“After I tipped it out, I knew it would be a scramble. I knew everybody would run towards the ball because it was sudden death. So as soon as I tipped it out, the first person to grab it, I knew I would be open for him. We made eye contact and Rondo threw it up for me.”
While it was Chandler with the game-winner, his team was led to the win by Igoudala, the game’s Player of the Game, who recorded 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting and a high of six boards; Curry tossed in 14 points and Durant scored 10 to go with four rebounds, four assists and three steals. Rondo did what point guards do best and dished out a game-best five assists.
The USA White Team had a pair in double digits, with veterans Odom and Billups leading the charge with 13 and 11 points, respectively.
“It was a great experience being able to play at Radio City,” said Billups. “For me, I know [Lamar Odom] is probably used to being around this atmosphere, but for me coming to New York City and always just watching different performances at Radio City, it's awesome for us to have been the show tonight.”
Continuing practice tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. at the New York Knicks practice facility, the U.S. will again take the court for short practice and then a scrimmage versus China on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
The team wraps up its domestic training with the aforementioned contest against France in the first of a double-header at The Garden on Sunday afternoon. Following the USA-France contest, fans will see China and Puerto Rico clash.
Then it’s off to Spain, Greece and finally Turkey, where the USA Basketball Men’s World Championship Team will attempt to win the gold for the first time since ’94.
“Incredible experience, playing at the Radio City Music Hall,” quipped Odom. “I guess it's going to cap off a great week that we had here. Looking forward to getting started, getting it going.”