The NBA playoffs are in full swing, and as the amazing continues to happen, the Grantland crew wants to help you buff up on some of the lesser-known faces populating basketball's second season.
Who Is He? Pablo Prigioni.
What’s His Nickname? “The Maestro” has popped up a few times in my search, but I’m suspicious that’s only a result of the YouTube clip below. New Yorkers can help me out here, but apparently there’s a local sportscaster who refers to him as “Priggy Smalls” — make your own judgments there.
Where Is He From? Argentina, but he played professionally in Spain.
Years Played: Rookie.
What’s His Salary? $473,604.
His Game in 25 Words or Fewer: A pass-first point guard who’s fluent in the pick-and-roll, shoots it well enough from 3, and consistently makes great decisions with the ball.
Explain this one to me: The Olympics organizers probably gave away $300,000 of revenue per basketball session by not having courtside seats, and yet they scheduled Friday’s men’s basketball semifinals so that
A. Spain and Russia played at 5 p.m. London time as the "early" game.
B. Everyone in the stadium then had to leave.
C. They cleaned the stadium.
D. America and Argentina played the "night" game at 9 p.m. for a new crowd.
Sounds super greedy, right? And yet they surrounded all four sides of the court with empty space? Don’t worry, it was even dumber in person. Speaking of dumb, I should probably mention that Spain nearly blew the semifinal because Russia said, "Hey, we're going to swarm the Gasol brothers every time they get the ball, do you have a Plan B?" In the first half, the answer was "No!" And then everything changed, shots started falling, an inside-outside game materialized and Spain banged out an eight-point victory (and the silver medal at worst).
In this year's Olympic basketball competition, there are several teams that are a threat to medal, and maybe even to contend with Team USA. As the Games ramp up, we’ll be providing looks at the strengths, weaknesses, and medal chances of these possible contenders.
Because Spain qualified for the Olympics by winning 2011's EuroBasket, a large slate of preparation games was replaced by a long pre-Olympics training camp. During those limited opportunities, we did get to see just how good Spain can be. In its game against Great Britain (in which Spain competed without some of its key players), it was easy to see why many consider them to be the main threat to Team USA's gold medal run.
Team USA's small-ball lineup, the one that doesn’t feature a true center, has been talked about a lot in the buildup to the Olympics — and for good reason. Going small would be the only hole other teams could exploit, especially on the defensive end. Going into their game against Spain, the USA lineups without a true big had been outscored by one point in their other exhibition games, according to John Schuhmann of NBA.com. Any time Tyson Chandler has been in foul trouble (remember, in FIBA play, players get five fouls instead of six), the United States has struggled. We saw something similar in the first quarter against Spain yesterday. After Chandler picked up his second foul, Team USA had a lineup featuring LeBron James at center, Carmelo Anthony at power forward, and Kevin Durant at small forward. Serge Ibaka exploited the smaller lineup with 10 straight points.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
Alex Rodriguez suffered a broken hand after being hit by Seattle's Felix Hernandez, and is expected to miss six to eight weeks. Hernandez pitched 7.1 solid innings, working out of several jams as the Mariners held on to beat the Yankees 4-2. After the game, Yankees GM Brian Cashman found Ichiro Suzuki in the locker room. "Hey, just for my peace of mind, you're not practicing some weird Japanese sorcery I don't know about, right?" Cashman asked. Ichiro stared at him thoughtfully for a moment, then said, "I'm not not practicing Japanese sorcery." Cashman sighed in relief. "Okay, great. Thanks. Whew."
On Sunday in Germany, Joachim Löw was everywhere all at once. In the Frankfurt airport, his frown was plastered across nearly every paper on the stand. The Frankfurter Allgemeine, a burly broadsheet not unlike the the Wall Street Journal in this country, featured an illustration of his face on its front page, crumpled and then flattened, dappled with distress. "Celebrated too early," its caption began. "A week ago we were enamored with [Löw]. He was a star. Since last Thursday's 2-1 result against Italy we now know that he didn't get everything right, but rather, he actually got a whole lot wrong . Grrrr."
In Hannover, a mustachioed man with a bookshelf of a belly stepped into the dining car of a train headed for Berlin with the Bild, perhaps Germany's most infamous tabloid, folded under his arm. "Another Final Without Us," the first half of its headline read. "Can one still believe in Jögi?" He pored over a post-match breakdown the entire way to the capital city, hunched over and frozen, breaking away only for another wheat beer. He had four in just over an hour.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
Tiger Woods moved into second place on the all-time PGA tour wins list behind Sam Snead by out-dueling Bo Van Pelt to win the AT&T National golf tournament at Congressional. "Operation Kill Tiger must now enter the next phase," said a member of the Sam Snead Legacy Foundation on a clandestine phone call. "Also, we should think about changing the name. Not very subtle, Gene. Son of a gun, I did it again. No names on the phone. Always forgetting that. Always forgetting that."
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
Tim Lincecum struck out eight over seven scoreless innings to earn his first win in two months and give the Giants their third straight shutout against the Dodgers, propelling them into a tie for first place in the NL West. The 3-0 win was such a relief for Lincecum that he shook his head around dramatically in the shower, eyes closed, wet hair flying everywhere, clearly pretending he was in a triumphant sports movie. Players nearby reported that he could be heard singing the words to Styx's "Show Me the Way," which everyone thought was pretty much a perfect choice for that scene.
Last time around, I did a preview of the quarterfinals. I picked Germany, Portugal, France, and Italy. If my success rate at crossing the street was as good as my success rate at picking knockout soccer matches, I would be dead. So let's take a look at the semifinals!
How They Got Here: Portugal pulled off the unlikely feat — or what seemed an unlikely feat before the tournament — of making it out of Group B, the Group of Death. After a fairly close loss to Germany, 1-0, Paulo Bento's side got a game-winning goal against Denmark from little-known Silvestre Varela and a world-beating performance from Cristiano Ronaldo in a 2-1 win against the Dutch.
The Czechs got their pants pulled down by Russia in one of the most one-sided losses of the tournament so far (4-1, on the opening day of Euro 2012). Since then, they've taken their chances very well (basically the key to winning tournament games). Their opening goal against Greece was like watching CCTV footage of a mugging.
This past weekend, Spain played Italy in one of the marquee matchups of the Euro 2012 Group Stages. The match was held in Gdansk, Poland. It ended in a draw, 1-1, and Spain has subsequently started complaining, albeit informally, about the state of the Arena Gdansk pitch.