Eric Gordon and Team USA

I’m currently in New York City covering USA Basketball for as the team prepares for the World Championships next month. Here’s an article I wrote about today’s scrimmage against China. You can find it here:

In preparation for Sunday’s Global Community Cup game against France, Team USA took to the floor of Madison Square Garden Saturday afternoon in a friendly scrimmage against China, one of the cup’s two other participating countries. The teams played four 10-minute quarters, but the score reset for each of the periods.

Over the course of the afternoon, USA largely dominated play, winning each of the first three quarters by scores of 20-11, 27-15, and 35-8. In the contentious fourth quarter, China struck back, narrowly edging out Team USA 17-16. Danny Granger paced the team with 22 points, while Yi Jianlian led the Chinese with 13 points.

For Eric Gordon, things got off to a slow start. After Coach Mike Krzyzewski elected to sit him for the entire first period, Gordon came out on the floor to play the first five minutes of the second. He hit one of his three 3-point attempts in the quarter and picked up a steal as well for a respectable first half.

In the third quarter, though, Gordon really turned up his game, racking up 8 points (of his 15 total) on two long-range makes and a pair of free throws. Gordon also stood out on the defensive end, nagging ball handlers and poking the orange away on a few occasions.

“We had a good rhythm as a team. When you have good rhythm as a team, everybody starts hitting shots. I know I got going, hitting a lot of threes, and it was good for me, but as a team we were rolling pretty good,” Gordon said after the game.

In the fourth quarter, Krzyzewski relied on Gordon down the stretch, playing Gordon for the final five-and-a-half minutes of the game, in which he added four more points — two of which came on an impressive breakaway dunk. “Eric been playing very well.” Krzyzewski said. “He hasn’t had one bad day.”

Krzyzewski’s satisfaction with Gordon’s abilities manifested itself at the end of the final period. With Team USA down one point with about 1.5 seconds to play, Krzyzewski drew up a side out of bounds play off the timeout designed to get either Granger or Gordon — the team’s two highest scorers for the contest — the final look. As the play developed, Gordon turned out to be the one open. He fired up a three off Rudy Gay’s inbound pass from the left wing as time expired, but, unfortunately it fell short off the front rim.

“It was a good look,” Gordon said. “The ball was so slick. It was on target but I just couldn’t get it far enough, but it was a good shot.”

Granger echoed Gordon’s feelings: “I think he got a good look. We played it right. One of us was going to be open. He was, and he got a good shot off. It just so happened he missed it.”

With one game left to play Sunday against France, Gordon must continue to excel in order to secure a spot on the final roster. Krzyzewski suggested that he would cut the team to 13 or 14 players for further competition before making the final cut down to 12 by August 26.

In reference to his process for making the final selections, Krzyzewski said, “It’s about combinations. It’s not about evaluating one guy or another guy. It’s trying to figure out how they all fit together and these guys have put us in the position where they’re all playing hard, they’re all unselfish, and hopefully we can come up with the right group to give us the best chance to win.”

Granger sung Gordon’s praises, pointing out that the Clippers guard’s skill set fits the team well in international play.

“Whenever you have a guard like Eric who’s strong, can shoot it, in international competition, that’s deadly because they’re afraid of our quickness,” he said. “We have guys like Derrick Rose and [Rajon] Rondo and [Russell] Westbrook, for that matter, who are really really quick, so they pack it in. And the way you attack that is with shooters,” he continued.

Gordon himself said he was confident he would take the team, but “whoever they choose, they choose. All I try to do is hit 3-pointers and make shots and play really good defense.”

Gordon’s last chance to show off those abilities before the next cut will be tomorrow at 1 PM eastern against France.

Hardwood Paroxysm