Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
The job of destroying the opposing point of attack will fall largely on Smart, who is starting to return to form after missing most of the exhibition schedule with calf tightness. Had he been fully healthy, Smart might have had a crack at defending Patty Mills, who destroyed the Americans down the stretch in Australia’s win last week. Smart says he’s now ready to take on such an assignment should he need to in the FIBA World Cup.
“I feel great. I’m ready to get it started,” he said. “I think everybody else is. We’ve been doing a lot of things to really get us ready and get us close. We’re getting better and better each day. We’re excited to get this going.”
Of course, no great perimeter defender is complete without someone to back him up at the rim. Indiana Pacers big man Myles Turner, who was third among centers in All-Defensive team voting, also backed up Smart’s take.
“Defense is big for us. We’re working on our defense,” Turner said. “Working on being together and communication. Those are the biggest points we’re working on.”
Yes, we’re still talking about Team USA, but why wouldn’t we? Half of the Celtics’ regular rotation is in China at this moment, ready to take on the world – literally – beginning tomorrow.
This is a huge opportunity for Smart, in particular, to make an impact at a very high level. It’s fair to say that Marcus is a bit disrespected by NBA fans outside Celtics Nation. He’s viewed as a flopper and a horrendous shooter. While there’s a morsel of truth in those labels, those of us who watch him every night know the reality. Smart is so much more than that, and what he brings to the Celtics can’t always be measured.
Last season Smart became a full-time starter for the first time, and the result was he earned first team All-Defense honors. Based on the eye test, he stopped trying to fool the refs and it seemed they gave him the benefit of the doubt more than in the past.
And something that can be measured: 2018-19 was by far the best shooting performance of his career.
Coach Popovich clearly values Smart’s game – Marcus easily made the team despite missing significant parts of training camp with a calf injury. Now it’s up to Smart to prove his value to the world.
Related – Globe: Celtics quartet front and center as basketball World Cup begins | NBC Sports Boston: Celtics well-represented on list of top NBA players in FIBA World Cup | Team USA hilariously brands Marcus Smart as Joe Harris’ ‘alter ego’ | The Athletic: Gregg Popovich let a Team USA player pick the wine one night. The result was fantastic
On Page 2: Leadership in action
“It means the world to me,’’ Walker said. “We know a lot of the big-name guys pulled out, but it’s given the younger guys a chance to showcase what they have. We’re all so excited to be here. This is something we all grew up watching and we all grew up wanting to be a part of.’’
“I am trying to bring the energy, bring the enthusiasm and excitement,’’ he said. “I am one of the older guys on the team — I am not trying to overdo the leadership thing — but if anyone asks me for some type of advice or voice my opinion, I will.’’
The time with Team USA has also been an opportunity for Walker to become more comfortable with his new Celtics teammates. The shared experiences — meals, team flights and bus rides — can help facilitate a smooth transition once the season starts, he said.
“I’m all about the togetherness,’’ Walker said. “I’ve always felt that your off-the-court relationships translate on the court. I’ve always felt that way; I’ve always been big on that.’’
My gut reaction here is that this is the kind of leadership the Celtics were missing last year. Kemba doesn’t have the third-eye, flat-earth, suck-my-dick mystique, and that’s fine. We’ve been through that, and it got stale real fast when the wins stopped coming.
Right now we need a guy who’ll just be straightforward, honest and personable, a good dude who’ll pick up the check for all of his USA teammates and coaches – and, by the way, score 25 points a game. Kemba is that guy.
And, finally… What time is the game?
Team USA drew Group E, featuring the Czech Republic, Turkey and Japan. Each team plays each other once. The U.S. schedule is as follows (all times Eastern):
Sunday: USA vs. Czech Republic, 8:30 a.m.
Tuesday: USA vs. Turkey, 8:30 a.m.
Thursday: USA vs. Japan, 8:30 a.m.
The top two teams from Group E advance to the second round, where they would play a pair of games against the top two teams from Group F (Greece, New Zealand, Brazil, Montenegro). The second round will be played from Sept. 6-9. Results from the first two rounds are combined to determine the top two teams in this new group. Those two teams then advance to the tournament’s final phase.
Yesterday, Rich Jensen gave us a fascinating lesson in time zones and the International Date Line, but in case you want it distilled down, just remember is this: All of China has only one time zone, and it’s 12 hours ahead of Boston. Therefore, when Team USA tips off at 8:30 p.m. in Shanghai or Beijing or any other city, the time will be 8:30 a.m. Eastern in the US.
Here’s the full tournament schedule from FIBA. Televised coverage in the US will appear almost entirely on the online streaming service ESPN+, which costs $4.99 per month.
The Rest of the Links: