by Russ Bengtson

You might be wondering why I told Lang I’d be willing to provide play-by-play for USA vs. Uruguay—a game that a) means absolutely nothing for the U.S. squad, and b) will probably be attended by roughly 18 people. Honestly, I have no idea. Except I want to mention some of my observations from my own Vegas trip (the one that Lang handled the blanket coverage of) and I REALLY want to make a lot of snarky comments about Mike Miller.

• The Thomas & Mack Center is awful. Beyond awful, really. Antiquated, freezing (Ted Williams sat next to us for the USA/Venezuela game), generic. Just a total pile of crap. It’s amazing to me that a city like Las Vegas, where people LITERALLY give their money away, can have just one basketball arena (I know they’re building more, but come on).

• Carmelo’s out tonight. He bruised his pride heel falling on that one dunk last night (:39 in). Great.

• Meanwhile, Uruguay brings Esteban Batista, who apparently–judging from his highlights–comes to us from professional wrestling (and the Atlanta Hawks, although not anymore). Lang wishes he was writing about this game.

• Michael Redd, starting small forward? Oh, why not.

• I overestimated. I think there are 14 people in the stands.

• Words of wisdom from Bill Walton regarding a dressed but inactive Carmelo Anthony: “It’s easier to be in your sweatsuit.”

• URUGUAY LEADS, 3-0! Don’t get used to it, guys.

• The USA misses their first two shots, both long jumpers by Michael Redd.

• JASONKIDD! 3-up. That’s his fifth shot…of the tournament.

• Batista takes Dwight Howard with a nifty move along the baseline, and 1. 6-3, Uruguay.

• LeBron James, jumper.

• Big Bill mentions that Uruguay has two Olympic medals in basketball—bronzes in ’52 and ’56. Very relevant.

• Another three for Uruguay, and USA trails 9-5. My man Mazzarino’s got the Ginobili bald spot.

• Bill Walton geography lesson amidst Dwight Howard free throws.

• LeBron, back to Kobe, dunk. 9-up.

• Howard swats the sh*t out of somebody, but the Uruguayans get it back and earn a pair of free throws.

• Apparently LeBron came up with the huddle-breaking chant idea of “DOMINATE.” He also hits a top-of-the-key three to give the USA their first lead at 12-10.

• Kobe passes up a layup to kick out to Michael Redd for a three—who misses again. Batista scores on the other end, and it’s tied back up at 12. Uruguay scores again, and they re-take the lead, 14-12. This is the latest the USA has trailed so far all tournament. Carmelo is important.

• LeBron James, three. Dude’s turning into Larry Bird. Uruguay TO, Kobe recovers, ahead to Redd for a layup. Maybe that gets him started. Another Uruguay turnover, LeBron layup. And like that, it’s 19-14 USA.

• Mazzarino trey. 19-17. Kobe misses a dunk and a putback, Uruguay recovers, Batista misses everything, and Jason Kidd turns it over. Bad pass. Uruguay misses a three, and Kobe comes back with a layup AND the foul! Yes!

• Diana Taurasi checks in for the US, along with Deron Williams.

• Starting at point guard for Uruguay, Hans Gruber. “Who are you, Kobe? Just another American who saw too many movies as a child? Another orphan of a bankrupt culture who thinks he’s John Wayne? Rambo? Marshal Dillon?”

• And apparently they’re being coached by Jerry Tarkanian.

• C-Billz, floater. 24-17, USA.

• Not sure what’s more disconcerting, Amare Stoudemire’s alarming array of new tattoos (how the heck did he get all those in ONE summer?), or his Bluetooth ear bandage.

• Batista! The Hawks couldn’t find minutes for this guy? No wonder why they suck.

• If Uruguay—specifically No. 11—could hit threes, they’d be winning right now.

• Tayshaun Prince, sporting his most-groomed beard ever, knocks down a three. 27-19.

• Prince again, lefty dunk in traffic off the miss. USA up 10.

• Another Uruguay turnover (that’s 47), and Amare earns a trip to the line.

• BATISTA! Kid’s a monster. That’s it for the first quarter, USA up 31-21.

• Jay-Z and Beyonce in the house.

• Deron Williams with a layup, Batista on the receiving end of an alley-oop. However he does at the tables, he’s gonna make a LOT of money this summer.

• Amare underneath, followed by yet another Uruguay turnover, and a foul on Amare in the post. Reset. Billups gets fouled, LeBron chews on his fingernails.

• Uruguay is tiny.

• There’s relentless jackhammering going on outside my window as they work on re-surfacing 5th Avenue. Psyched. At least it drowns out Bill Walton. Sort of.

• Uh, 37-23.

• Tayshaun with a mean baseline dunk, but no continuation. Sorry dude. Billups misses a layup, and a Uruguyan gets poked in the eye on the rebound.

• Batista rolls off a screen on the inbounds for the two-handed hammer. Ridiculous.

• Team USA hasn’t scored in a while, so here’s LeBron James.

• Another lob for Batista is out of reach, and LeBron responds with a driving two-handed dunk on the baseline. Of course. Batista gets a blow, and this could get ugly. LeBron gets a layup in transition, and another one. 43-25, USA.

• Uruguay bricks a three, Kobe misses from the corner, two straight fouls on the USA. Time out.

• Hey, look, the Basketball Hall of Fame inductees! With…no NBA players. Good job, voters. Jerks. Morons.

• Kobe, fouled. Bill Walton mentions that, when there’s four guys on you, someone might be open. Ya think? 45-25, USA.

• Uruguay is the worst-shooting team in the entire tournament, and the USA has the best field-goal defense. Methinks a comeback is not in the cards. Some ‘Guay hits a three, and Kobe comes right back with a three-point play.

• Kidd, to LeBron. Ouch. He’s got 18 points already.

• Kobe misses a silly layup, Uruguay misses a tiptoe transition three but get the ball back. And miss another three.

• LeBron, from 23. And he again, from the corner. He hasn’t missed a shot yet tonight and he’s got…24 points.

• Bill Walton, political lesson.

• Kobe drives around his defender and dunks all over a Uruguayan big man who makes no move to step in, put his hands up, or anything like that.

• kobe bryant. 59-36, USA.

• LeBron, casual oop to Amare. Yikes. 61-38.

• I’m pretty sure LeBron just killed someone. That was definitely the dunk of the tournament, as far as I’m concerned. He just drove straight in and yoked it (head at the rim, arm fully extended back) on top of some poor forward (No. 7) like he wasn’t even there. Good Lord. SLAMadamonth? Perhaps. 63-38, USA.

• Bill Walton just equivocated Uruguay’s “uh-oh” about LeBron on the break with New Orleans’s residents initial reaction to Katrina. I’m just gonna pretend he didn’t say that.

• Time running out, LeBron to Amare up top, for three—his second of the tournament. 66-38 USA at the half. Bron’s got 26 at the half on 11-11 shooting.

HALFTIME

• Touching and sensitive Amare Stoudemire halftime feature. Call me crazy, but I’d rather see halftime features on players from OTHER countries. You know, the ones I don’t see ALL YEAR LONG.

• LeBron starts the second half on the bench, and Uruguay opens with a three. 66-41. Amare answers with a layup from Tayshaun.

• Bill Walton talks about a 19-year-old Arvydas Sabonis dropping 30 and 20 in the first half of a game without missing a shot, not starting the second half, and boos raining down. I suppose the same could have happened for LeBron, but there are only 83 people in the arena, and 81 of them are comatose from the cold.

• The satellite feed seems to be failing. Thank God.

• Tayshaun Prince follows two straight buckets with an airball in the paint.

• Taurasi for three.

• Prince again. 78-45 with seven minutes to go.

• BATISTA! Too little too late. He should have hit LeBron with a chair midway through the first quarter.

• Amare, off glass? Who do you think you are, Tim Duncan? Uruguay follows with a three to slash the USA lead to, um, 30.

• Deron Williams three, Uruguay miss, Williams dunk.

• Bill Walton: “Surprisingly, Uruguay’s not calling any time outs!” Yeah, because they’d make a difference. They do finally call one, though—trailing 88-50.

• I’m kind of looking forward to USA/Argentina tomorrow. Is that strange?

• Uruguay hits a bank floater, Deron Williams misses a three, as does Tayshaun Prince. Batista with a stroing move inside, and LIKE THAT, the USA lead is cut to 34.

• And Tyson Chandler yokes one, getting everybody out of their seats. Well, the other players, at least. Jon Saunders can only chuckle.

• It’s looking like LeBron’s done for the night. Kobe, too.

• Bill Walton uncomfortably mentions the Larry Craig situation. Jon Saunders is silent. I presume he’s also rolling his eyes, checking the game clock, and searching for the nearest exit.

• Walton then goes on to effusively praise the WNBA playoffs.

• Amare dunks on Batista. Hard. USA lead is 31.

• Fourth quarter. Sigh.

• Uruguay for three, and the US lead is back under 30. What was the spread for this game anyway? 50? 60?

• Tyson Chandler misses a pair of free throws. Of course. Don’t pack for Beijing quite yet, Tyson.

• Bill Walton, Bob Dylan tangent.

• Tyson Chandler misses an open dunk, and maybe he should just go home now.

• The NBA should play the same schedule as this tournament. The whole season—playoffs and all—would be over by March.

• I’m pretty sure I just heard Bill Walton say that Manu Ginobili could be the best player in the entire world, but maybe I’m just hearing things.

• The USA is over 100, by the way. Make that 104 as Michael Redd finally hits a three. About time.

• Uruguay celebrates a bucket inside from a 3-6 guard after he grabbed three straight offensive boards. Moral victory, I guess.

• Bill Walton’s unstated motto: Anything worth stating is worth overstating.

• Turnovers, missed shots. Yuck.

• Tayshaun Prince dunks on No. 7 as well (he’s the same guy LeBron posterized the hell out of earlier). Tough night.

• I’m sticking this out to the bitter end, dammit.

• Another Uruguayan three, another Chandler turnover.

• Michael Redd, four-point play inside of two minutes. The rich get richer.

• Bill Walton: Stuff about Uruguay.

• Alley-oop to Chandler from outside the three-point line, reverse. That’s a wrap.

• Final score, 118-79, USA. BRING ON ARGENTINA.

• Whoa, some camera guy in the background was wearing black/cement Jordan IIIs. Neat.