Team USA Basketball Whomps France in Olympic Debut

Team USA Basketball Whomps France in Olympic Debut

mostly watching (AP photo)

They may or may not be better than the '92 Dream Team—I'm a mite
skeptical, though it's probably close—but it's pretty clear that this
2012 Team USA is gonna be damn good. France might be the toughest team
that they play in the Preliminary Round—not a real Gold Medal contender,
but a team of pros at least, with an All-Star in Tony Parker and a
handful of other solid players (Boris Diaw, Nicolas Batum)—but after a
sloppy first quarter, Team USA still cruised to an easy victory, leading
by at least 20 for most of the second half and finishing with a 98-71 victory.

The game more or less reinforced the current player hierarchy in the
NBA, with LeBron James and Kevin Durant the obvious team leaders. Even
on a team with Chris Paul and Deron Williams, LeBron served as the
team's primary facilitator, hitting teammates with bullet passes for
easy looks and finishing with nine points and 8 assists, while Durant
served as the first-option scorer, tallying 22 points on 13 shots, and
pulling down 9 rebounds as well. It's hard to imagine a team with
those two guys not finding a way to win any of these games.

Our own Andre Iguodala didn't have a ton of impact in this one—he only
played two minutes in the first half, losing most of his minutes to a
hot Kevin Love, and didn't register any meaningful stats in his brief
stretch. He did get to play most of the fourth quarter in what was
essentially garbage time, though he didn't exactly set the court on
fire, with his most notable play being an attempted alley-oop pass that
sailed well over his teammate's head. As long as Love manages to stay
out of Coack K's doghouse, 'Dre's minutes stand to be fairly limited in
consequential action from here out, though he may be called on to be a
defensive stopper off the bench should any opposing wing players give
the team trouble.

However, there was another Sixer more notably involved with today's game
than 'Dre—Coach Doug Collins, who returned to the microphone as the
analyst for today's game on NBC. It was fun to hear Dougie's voice on
the call again, as he did for several years on TNT (and for the '08
Olympic games in Beijing as well), and cool to get his take on a couple of the
players he's had to gameplan against from the Sixers' sidelines these
last few seasons. It'll be a treat to get to hear him for the rest of
the games.

Also, if you're watching these Team USA games and a couple of them turn
into blowouts, there's another reason besides getting to see 'Dre on the
court to keep watching in garbage time—rookie big man Anthony Davis. He
didn't put up huge numbers in today's game, but he had a couple plays—a
block on one end where he just kinda swallowed the shot, an alley-oop
dunk on the other—that were fairly stunning, and showed how much fun
this guy is gonna be to watch in the NBA for the next decade or two, and
how he's already on a level where he doesn't even look out of place
playing with these All-World dudes as teammates.

Next up: The not particularly intimidating Team Tunisia, on Tuesday at 5:15 PM EST. Get ready for some SportsCenter highlights.

Ex-Penn State TE Brent Wilkerson gets probation for indecent assault

USA Today Images

Ex-Penn State TE Brent Wilkerson gets probation for indecent assault

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — A former Penn State football player will serve five years' probation and register as a sex offender after pleading guilty to indecent assault.

Twenty-two-year-old Brent Wilkerson was sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty in connection with a February outing to several bars with a young woman and others.

Police say Wilkerson was drunk but the woman was sober when he insisted on making sure she got home safe.

The woman tells police Wilkerson pushed her upstairs to her bedroom where he fell asleep. The woman says she went to bed later and woke up to find Wilkerson kissing and fondling her and fondling himself. He later apologized in a text message.

Wilkerson was kicked off the team in March. Court records say he lives in Clinton, Maryland.

Union-Toronto FC 5 things: Embracing the playoff underdog role

Union-Toronto FC 5 things: Embracing the playoff underdog role

Union vs. Toronto FC
7:30 p.m. on ESPN2

Riding a seven-game winless run entering their first playoff match since 2011, the No. 6 Union (11-14-9) will attempt to hit the reset button and unseat the third-ranked and heavily favored Toronto FC (14-9-11) on Wednesday (7:30 p.m., ESPN2) at BMO Field.

Here are five things to know:

1. Playing underdog
The struggling Union are happily accepting the role as underdogs against MLS Cup-hungry Toronto FC.

"It's a difficult task but it’s not impossible,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. "Not many people are giving us a chance. We've been a good team when we're considered the underdog and my guys have responded well in that situation. This is no different."

To fully embrace that underdog role, and in an attempt to wash away the stink of how they ended the regular season, the Union are treating Wednesday as a hard reset. For them, the playoffs will be a fresh chance to prove themselves.

“It’s a new season now,” said Union center back Ken Tribbett, who helped his club draw Toronto FC at BMO Field on Sept. 24. “In the playoffs, anything can happen. We go up to Toronto and it’ll be a good test. We have to stay sharp for 90 minutes and hopefully we can come back here with a win.”

And there is a reason to be slightly optimistic about the Union’s chance. Despite a 1-0-1 record against the Canadian side this season, the Union, who lost 3-1 in the first match, played much better on Sept. 24 at BMO Field. They clogged the midfield and ground the Sebastian Giovinco-less club into a 1-1 draw.

“It’s encouraging that we have gone there recently and played well,” Curtin said. “I think we have a group that has a belief, and one that is pissed a bit about how things have ended. They are motivated.”

2. Leaning on experience
While the 2016 Union will ultimately be known for their reliance on youth — a group that included Keegan Rosenberry, who has played every minute this season, Fabian Herbers, Josh Yaro and Ken Tribbett — it’s the veterans that will lead them on Wednesday.

“This is a pressure game for everybody,” Curtin said. “We have a good balance of guys who have played in big spots, like (Chris) Pontius, Tranquillo (Barnetta), (Alejandro) Bedoya. (C.J.) Sapong has played in big games, you can go through the list.”

Yet despite Curtin’s need for his veterans to lead, his reliance on youth means the younger players need to be reliable. The manager admitted that pressure can change how people play, and he is making sure the Union youth movement remains steady on Wednesday.

“We have young guys, there’s no question about it,” Curtin said. “These guys will play in their first playoff game and a lot of the guys on our roster have never been in a playoff game. You hope they rise to the occasion and I’m confident they will.”

3. Pressure on Toronto
Making their second-ever postseason appearance, high-priced Toronto FC has its sights set on bigger things than the Union in the play-in playoff round. That’s why Curtin believes the pressure is squarely on his opposition.

“I’d say the pressure is on them, they are the home team,” the manager said. “My guys should be loose, they have nothing to lose. It’s fair to say, they are the home team and they want to make a deep playoff run. We want to make some noise.”

Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney knows his team will be excited, so he’s trying to instill a high intensity but controlled start for his club.

“We expect a little of the unexpected at the start,” he said. “The game settles down eventually, but at the start, there’s a lot of emotion into it and you want to play with the right kind of caution but the right kind of intensity to put the opposing team on their back foot.

“The guys are ready to go, ready to go after Philadelphia.”

4. Keep an eye on
Jozy Altidore: It would be easy to go with Giovinco here, but Altidore has a recent history of crushing the Union. He has two goals in his last three games against the Union and buried 10 in 23 games this season.

“Jozy is a guy who can stretch the field and is dangerous,” Curtin said. “He’s not a guy you can shut down, it’s not possible. He’ll have his moments, you just have to make those looks as predictable for (goalkeeper Andre Blake) as you can. You hope he’s a little off on the night.”

Tranquillo Barnetta: Without added inspiration, the Union offensive catalyst has been one of the club’s best players all season. On Wednesday, Curtin expects a little extra from Barnetta, who is not returning to the Union in 2017.

“I’ve talked a ton about how special he is, he’s been a great attribute for the Union and a guy we want to prolong the season for,” Curtin said. “He’s played in the big spots, the big games and there’s something extra there for him.” 

5. This and that
• On the injury front, Union center back Yaro sprained his MCL while returning from a concussion. “It’s a two-week injury,” Curtin said, “so it will be unfortunate he won’t be part of the Toronto game.”

Warren Creavalle is also fighting injury. The defensive midfielder left Sunday’s match with a rib injury but could be available for Wednesday. “It’s painful for him,” Curtin said. “He’s a tough kid and he wants to be a part of this game.”

• The Union and Toronto FC are deadlocked all time, with a 6-6-5 record against each other. 

• The Union are 2-4-3 at BMO Field.

• Both clubs enter Wednesday limping. Since August 27 (the Union’s last win), Toronto FC is 2-1-4, while the Union are 0-5-2.