NBA superstars give Mills a big rap

Patrick Mills has blitzed the Olympic Games and now NBA superstar Carmelo Anthony says the Canberra point guard is ready to become a dominant force in the world’s best basketball league.
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Mills’s superb Olympic campaign ended when the Australian Boomers lost to the United States 119-86 yesterday morning (Australian time).

But while the Boomers couldn’t match the gold medal favourites, Mills again stood tall to lead Australia’s hopes of causing a major upset. He finished with 26 points in another stellar game.

For the tournament, he averaged 21 points per game with a 39-point haul against Great Britain and a game-winning three-pointer against Russia.

During his three-year NBA career, Mills has spent most of his time on the fringes.

But New York Knicks star Anthony backed the 23-year-old to take on more responsibility when the US league resumes. ”Patty was playing well the whole tournament, he was shooting the ball well and running that team,” Anthony said.

”He was getting out in the open court and making plays for everyone and himself.

”You can tell he’s grown as a basketball player … it’s hard to prepare for a guy like [Mills].

”You can just tell the way he’s played [that he’s improved], our league [the NBA] is all about opportunity and his opportunity is waiting.

”He’s an exciting player to watch and be out there against.

”I like to watch him, we like to watch him as players and competitors so I hope his opportunity comes real quick.”

The Beijing Olympics four years ago launched Mills on to the professional radar and helped him land a deal in the NBA.

And London has the potential to give his career a similar boost after his starring role.

After a brief trip back to Canberra, Mills will return to the US to begin his second season with the San Antonio Spurs.

At the end of the last NBA season, Mills had offers to join rival franchises and gain a starting five position.

But he opted to stay with the Spurs to continue working with Australian coach Brett Brown – who is the Spurs assistant – as well as learning from All Star Tony Parker.

Brown has lavished Mills with praise after every game, saying he had earned the right to make the big plays in games.

”I think he is [ready for more responsibility] and more importantly [Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich] thinks he is,” Brown said. ”When you watch him grab a game and get 39 [points] when we’re about to be bumped out of the tournament … his level of commitment is shown in his fitness.

”He had a great tournament, he’s learning how to be a point guard and a leader and I feel he can contribute at a higher level in San Antonio.

”I know Pop is really looking forward to giving him that opportunity.”

Kobe Bryant and US coach Mike Krzyzewski also said they were impressed with Mills. ”Patty Mills seems to get better and better every time you face him and I see him improve,” Bryant said. Krzyzewski added: ”Mills had one of the outstanding Olympics of any player.”

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Flanagan finds positives

Anna Flanagan says it’s impossible to cure Olympic Games heartbreak but she is adamant the Hockeyroos can send a message to their rivals by beating China tonight.
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The devastation of an abrupt ending to the young’s side campaign is still sinking in.

Despite a gallant effort, the Hockeyroos were bundled out of medal contention when they failed to beat Argentina earlier this week.

Making it harder to swallow was the fact they lost just one game and conceded only two goals in the tournament.

But after some family time and a sleepless night wondering ”what if”, Flanagan said it was already time to start planning for the future, staring with tonight’s fifth place play-off with China.

”The whole night and next day was really hard [after the campaign ended],” she said.

”Now we just want to end on a good note and show the rest of the world how far we’ve come and how good we can be,” Flanagan said.

”There were a lot of tears, we put a lot of hard work into this over the last 18 months and I’m really feeling for the girls.”

Flanagan won’t leave London with the medal she started to dream about, but the Canberra star has stamped herself as a key defender for Australia, with the squad now regrouping for a charge towards the next Olympics.

She was overcome with emotion when the Hockeyroos’ tournament was ended abruptly by Argentina and was too devastated to speak after the match.

But the heartbreaking end is contrasted with the extreme high of scoring a goal at the Olympics.

”I’m just proud of everyone and really honoured to be a part of this group,” Flanagan said.

”We had some time off to get things together [after we missed the finals], we had a day with our families and now we want to give it our best shot and finish the way we deserve to finish.”

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Buchanan has time on her side, now comes a dogfight

Caroline Buchanan during the Women’s BMX Cycling on Day 12 of the London Olympics.She’s untouchable when going solo on the track but Caroline Buchanan wants to prove she’s equally as good in the brutally rough eight-competitor race as she chases her dream of an Olympic Games gold medal.
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The Canberra BMX star will find out tonight if she can make her dream of the past four years a reality when she lines up in the semi-finals.

Buchanan will go into the race as one of the favourites after she blitzed the field to qualify fastest in the seedings round yesterday morning.

The chance to win a medal has been driving Buchanan since the Beijing Olympics when she was told she was too young to compete.

But all the nerves and expectation on the 21-year-old’s shoulders helped her deliver a lightning time of 38.424 seconds to progress to the next stage with ease.

Her bid to advance has been made tough by a stacked semi-final which boasts most of the top riders in her race, including fellow Australian Lauren Reynolds.

Buchanan wasn’t allowed to speak to the media after her seeding race.

To ensure she remains focused on her goal, the Australian team has strangely placed a media ban on all BMX athletes until they have finished competing.

But she tweeted: ”Raced the clock today – race the WORLD Friday (Boxing gloves coming out)”.

Parents Gail and Laurence were in the stands watching – albeit forced to sit apart because the grandstands were sold out – with massive cut-outs of Buchanan’s face.

For the first time in a BMX career which started more than a decade ago, Laurence admitted he was ”scared”.

”There were plenty of butterflies inside of me and I’m sure [Caroline] had the same thing as well,” Laurence said.

”I looked on the big screen and saw what she was facing … that massive ramp, I was scared. Absolutely scared.

”I was thinking what’s going to happen here, but she kept it so smooth and we were just delighted she got a nice clean run … this is the Olympics, it doesn’t get any bigger than this.

”She’s going to need some luck in the semis, there’s no doubt about it.”

Laurence and Gail’s nerves were tested when United States rider Brooke Crain crashed just before Caroline arrived at the starting gate.

Crain had to be helped from the course.

Of course, Buchanan’s parents know the dangers of the sport. It’s an adrenaline junkie’s dream where crashes are a regular occurrence and riders expect to hit the dirt.

But having waited so long for their daughter to reach their goal, it became too much for Gail.

”I was nervous, not because we didn’t trust Caroline’s professionalism. But because of the track, it’s fast, it’s hard and it’s nasty in bits,” Gail said.

”I was doing OK until Brooke Crain fell and then I just had tears in my eyes and I was thinking I was going to lose it.

”Caroline watched that all so who knows how it affects her to see someone face plant into a jump like that.”

Buchanan is a two-time mountain bike world champion and won the BMX time trial world title last month.

However, at the same meet she failed to medal in the eight-competitor race.

”Getting that first race out of the way will settle her nerves,” Laurence said.

”I think if she can podium, we don’t care what colour the medal is, it would be nice to be gold but any medal would be fantastic.”

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Bird’s experience helps Meares fly

Alex Bird has seen first hand what it takes to win Olympic Games gold and he wants to use his ”weird” London experience to help him chase his goal of success in Rio.
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Australian gold medal winner Anna Meares singled out Canberra cyclist Bird for the work he did with her to help prepare for the sprint final at the velodrome two days ago.

Meares said after her gold medal win: ”Alex Bird has been such an absolute legend,” she said.

”He’s been truly wonderful in helping me be ready to race Vicki tonight.”

But you won’t find Bird’s profile on the Australian Olympic site and he didn’t compete in London.

Instead, he made the trip as Cycling Australia’s second back up rider and he spent his time on the track playing to the role of Great Britain’s queen of cycling Victoria Pendleton to help Meares chase gold.

The national sprint champion missed selection on the Olympic team with Shane Perkins ahead of him in his events.

However, determined to still be a part of the campaign, Bird played his part perfectly behind the scenes.

And while Australia’s athletes party for the last few days in London, Bird was on a flight home just 24 hours after Meares took gold in the women’s sprint.

Essentially, the 27-year-old was Australia’s back up for the back up.

”It was a strange experience to be honest,” Bird said as he prepared to fly back to Australia.

”The way my training is structured, I could kind of help Anna out and I just basically do what I’m told. It was basically helping Anna learn a broader range of strategies.

”There was an occasional impersonations of different riders and a couple of times I did Vicki [Pendleton], but it’s broader than that.

”Seeing Anna win was sensational, it’s more or less the same as any personal victory I’ve had.”

Bird returns home without a medal or even a race on the Olympic stage, but he says being in London has broken down the barriers of competing on one of the world’s biggest stage.

Bird also helped the men’s sprint team train, filling in for bronze medallist Shane Perkins when he was absent at training because of his other duties.

But rather than be jaded, Bird is using the experiences to make him a better racer as he looks to the future.

”Being there as opposed to watching it on television takes away the mystique and aura,” Bird said.

”It makes it seem more achievable and real, not like a dream.”

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Game of snakes and leaders

He isn’t laughing. Bearded, rumpled, and utterly serious, Zach Galifianakis takes stock of the political world he and Will Ferrell mock in their new comedy, The Campaign.
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”There was a real frustration,” he says of 2009 and the birth of the US conservative movement known as the Tea Party at raucous town hall meetings around the country.

”People were up in arms. I personally think it had a lot to do with Obama being in office. It was racial. I hate to say it, but I do believe it. There are people everywhere, who have that thinking. It’s gross and disgusting.”

The Campaign features Ferrell and Galifianakis as protagonists for unnamed political parties contesting a Congressional election in North Carolina. It arrives as American screens show wave after wave of political comedy, drama and quasi-biography, from the hugely popular The Daily Show and its Comedy Central stablemate The Colbert Report to the Sarah Palin biopic Game Change and Sigourney Weaver’s new cable TV series, Political Animals. There is an appetite to send up politicians.

And then there is the real thing, the Republican Party presidential candidate debates, watched by Ferrell and Galifianakis as The Campaign was filmed in New Orleans last year. The pair had worked together off-screen, with Galifianakis hosting a talk show, Between Two Ferns, on Funny or Die (funnyordie南京夜网), the website that Ferrell co-founded and owns.

”It’s like watching the big game or something,” Ferrell says. ”Just the theatre of it was spectacular.”

”Politics – outside of Hollywood re-creating it – is such a reality show,” Galifianakis says. ”You watch politicians doing their thing these days – they’re constantly being videotaped, they’re constantly being followed. You cannot slip up, and people want to watch their slip-ups.”

The slips are spontaneous, which is to say, unintended and certainly unrehearsed. That is also a stamp of Ferrell comedies. This one is no exception.

As Congressman Cam Brady, Ferrell plays a political archetype who will do anything, say anything and associate with anyone to be re-elected. In this case, the re-election, once a foregone conclusion, has fallen under the spell of the ultra-rich Moech brothers, played with delighted smarminess by John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd, who shift their favours to the previously unknown small-town tourist guide Marty Huggins, played by Galifianakis.

Forced to actually chase votes, Congressman Brady finds himself visiting a Pentecostalist church, where the devout prove their faith with what they call serpent handling. ”It was a tough day, a long day,” the film’s director, Jay Roach, recalls. ”Half the snakes were live.”

Ferrell had been assured the snakes didn’t bite but knew that actor Nick Blady had already been bitten twice.

”We could have got shut down in a second if one more event happened,” Roach says. ”So it was a very loaded shoot and [Ferrell] was really adrenalised, and that was some of the funniest improvised dialogue of the whole shoot.”

There were other improvised scenes, including one outrageous rendition of the Lord’s Prayer, featuring both stars, and some bravura miming by Jason Sudeikis, who plays Brady’s campaign manager, Mitch Moore.

For Roach, the director of Game Change, the movie account of Sarah Palin’s misadventures as the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee, these were moments that reinforced his admiration for the actors: ”I think what good actors do is magic, especially good comedians, because the brainpower to do what they do in that improv situation, in a split second they actually seem to think in a superhuman way … When they’re switched on, oh man, it’s amazing.”

Not to be too cynical about it, but Galifianakis and Ferrell have every reason to be switched on. As co-producers as well as co-stars, they are also investors in the film.

There must be times during its election campaigns when only the US fails to see the joke is on them. The Campaign catches this notion and runs with it.

That includes what Galifianakis describes as ”a base thing that you talk about in this country”, referring to the truest believers of the Republican Party and the line tailored for them, ”America. Jesus. Freedom.”

Ferrell, whose one-man show You’re Welcome, America, a portrayal of former President George W. Bush, enjoyed a sold-out season on Broadway, knows better than most in his industry how a politician connects with his audience.

”We say that at the end of the movie,” he says of the recitation of the political holy trinity. ”Saying three words, it’s like ‘Yeah. America. Jesus. Freedom. I’m for that’.

”What does that mean? I dunno, but they love it.”

THE CAMPAIGNGENRE Comedy.CRITICAL BUZZ A ”vigorous” satire, according to Variety, timed perfectly for the US election campaign.STARS Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Dylan McDermott, Jason Sudeikis.DIRECTOR Jay Roach.RELEASE Now screening.RATED MA15+.

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