by Lang Whitaker

• Team USA, Argentina, Greece and Spain all finished 5-0 in the prelims at the WBC. France qualified for round two, barely. Teams going home include Puerto Rico, Brazil, Japan and Senegal.

• The Nets had a hearing about their new arena last night in Brooklyn, and as contentious as these public hearings often are, this one was described as having the “atmosphere of a World Cup soccer match.” Wonder if anyone in the audience lit flares? No dummies, the Nets had JKidd and Vince Carter at a pre-hearing rally across the street. Strangely, they also invited Roberta Flack to the event. They immediately signed her to play back-up point guard after the rally. Kidding! Actually, they did invite Jay Williams to training camp.

• Two years ago when I spent about a week following the Spurs around, I noticed a quote by Jacob Riis that Gregg Popovich had plastered all over the walls of the Spurs locker room (and translated into several languages):

When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two and I know it was not that blow that did it but all that had gone before.

That’s the Spurs philosophy in a nutshell. As Tim Duncan told me, “He put that quote in there my second year, and that’s our theme, that’s our theme. Keep pounding away at that rock, because you don’t know what’s going to make it change. It might not be every day we’re out here working or it might not be every day we run a play, but at some point it’ll play off.”

Anyway, it says here that Pop, a noted oenophile, is introducing a reasonably priced pinot noir called “Rock and Hammer,” which doesn’t sound like the most appetizing wine.

• The Pacers have added a whopping 11 new players this summer, giving them 18 players under contract for this season. The only problem is that 15 of the players are swingmen. Meanwhile…

• After basically handing Al Harrington over to the Pacers, Hawks GM Billy Knight came out and said they didn’t try to get any players from Indy because they didn’t think any of the players available on Indiana would have made Atlanta better. Of course, nobody believed Knight, so now the Hawks owners have broken away from their latest court hearing long enough to say that no, really, they just didn’t want any players from the Pacers. Did it have anything to with money and not wanting to take on salary? Oh no! Never! Of course not! OK, back to court.

• Terry Porter went from possibly being the new owner of the Trailblazers to as assistant coach in Detroit.