by Brett Edwards
Here's a news flash for all of the teams attempting to take down the USA in the FIBA Championships: You have no freaking chance. Kobe Bryant will not let team USA even come close to losing. He is bringing an insane intensity level that the team has lacked in recent years, first by working out like a madman, and now by playing full court defense on every opposing team's best player.
Kobe completely shut down Leandro Barbosa during USA's 113-76 beatdown of Brazil. Barbosa was previously leading the tournament in scoring at 27 per game, but ended up with just 4 points on 1-7 shooting with Kobe all over him. Chris Sheridan explains how Kobe locked down Barbosa from the very beginning:
The tone of the Kobe Bryant-Leandro Barbosa matchup was set just a few moments into the first quarter, but you had to look 80 feet away from the action to see it unfold.
As a player from Brazil shot two free throws at one end of the court, Barbosa stood beneath the basket all the way at the opposite baseline, trying to get a clear view.
Every second or so, however, Barbosa had to move a step or two to clear his line of vision from the obstruction that kept moving in his way.
That obstruction was Bryant, who was gluing himself to Barbosa at that very moment and stayed attached to him like white on rice all night ...
"He don't guard like that in the NBA, but he did tonight and I was impressed," Barbosa told ESPN.com.
Kobe did point out that he's dropped 20 pounds since the end of last season, so maybe we will see him guard like that in the NBA. But that's a couple of months away. For right now, teams playing in this qualifying tournament against the USA should be prepared to sit back and enjoy their beating, because with Kobe bringing this type of intensity, they have absolutely no shot.