Team USA to get 'sizable' test against Turkey
By the midpoint of the fourth quarter, the Americans were fighting -- successfully, it turned out -- to salvage their fifth and final pre-Olympic exhibition.
Well, the Turks are on Team USA's radar again. And again, it is a Turkish team that will not be competing in the Olympics. The teams will face off Thursday in a pre-Olympic friendly (ESPN2, ESPN360.com ).
Here's a look at the top 10 questions facing Team USA as it opens the Asian portion of its pre-Olympic tour:
Q: Is Turkey sending its best team?
A: No, not at all. Hedo Turkoglu of the Orlando Magic will be playing, but Mehmet Okur of the Utah Jazz will not (he opted to take a year off from the national team). Also missing from the Turkish squad are former NBA players Ibrahim Kutluay (performing his required Turkish military duty) and Mirsad Turkcan (retired from the national team).
There is, however, plenty of size and young talent, including Ersan Ilyasova (formerly of the Milwaukee Bucks), forward/center Omer Asik (selected 36th in 2008 draft, rights traded to Chicago Bulls), forward Cenk Akyol (selected 59th in 2005 draft by Atlanta Hawks), Engin Atsur (N.C. State, '06) and center Semih Erden (selected 60th in 2008 draft by Boston Celtics).
Q: What will Team USA's scheme be against Turkey?
A: As always, the U.S. team will try to use its speed and athleticism to its advantage, and this might be the first time we see Kobe Bryant assigned to defend the opposition's best player -- in this case, Turkoglu. Turkey will try to slow the game into a battle of half-court sets and use its height advantage to create extra possessions and second-chance points.
Q: Any changes for Team USA from what we saw this past Friday against Canada?
Q: Will Team USA be jet lagged after flying to Hong Kong and taking a ferry to Macau?
A: They shouldn't be. By the time tip-off arrives, they will have been in Asia for more than 72 hours.
Q: Anything particular to keep an eye on?
A: Aside from the Kobe-Hedo matchup, watch to see whether Turkey forward Karem Gonlum is as effective around the basket as he was at the 2004 World Championship. The guy is a master at tipping in missed shots and knocking opponents' shots off the rim, which is allowed under FIBA rules.
Q: Does Team USA seem to be getting along? The team was somewhat factionalized in 2004 when it went to Athens. Might that be a problem again?
A: By all appearances, so far so good. But remember, everything seemed copacetic for Team USA when the players flew to Germany for their second exhibition game prior to the 2004 Olympics, and they then went out and got clobbered by 17 points against eventual silver-medalist Italy. If problems are going to arise, they'll come later rather than sooner. For now, everyone seems especially focused and dedicated.
Q: Anything strange happen to Team USA yet?
A: Well, one member of the team (we'll keep his identity secret to avoid giving up our source) sent out his laundry and left $1,100 in U.S. currency in one of his pockets. The money was returned by a staff member at the team hotel, the Venetian, and the player handed over a $100 tip as a reward.
Q: Are the players going out and seeing the sights?
A: No, not so much. It's too hot and sticky outside, with a haze so thick it seems they already are in Beijing. Things are much more comfy in the air-conditioned confines of the Venetian.
Q: Any chance Turkey will pull off an upset?
A: Not likely. In fact, it's almost unfathomable. But watch to see whether Turkey can use its size to its advantage. The Americans are small, no matter how hard coach Mike Krzyzewski tries to convince everyone that Team USA will be A-OK with Carmelo Anthony and James as the main two power forwards.
Q: Got a prediction, Sheridan?
A: Team USA by 27, although Gonlum will convert more offensive rebounds than any American.
Chris Sheridan is an ESPN.com Insider. He has covered the U.S. senior national team since the 1996 Olympics. To e-mail Chris, click here.
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