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usa basketball April 19, 2006

Posted by d.w. in sports.
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does anyone remember in the olympics 2 years ago when the u.s.a. basketball team got the bronze medal and everyone was disappointed? well, since then usabasketball has supposedly gotten serious about bringing the gold medal back to north america (minus mexico and canada). there was a lot of anticipation as to who they would get to organize the team, coach the team, and play for the team. i would like to talk about some of their decisions.

they picked mike krzyzewski to coach the team. he’s the coach for duke university. duke is supposed to be way awesome every year (and they sort of are), but they didn’t even make it to the final four this year. but if you want to talk about the march madness bracket, i’m probably in the group of the 10 people you would least want to discuss it with. i got last place in every group i filled out a bracket in. except one. i beat the person who left everything blank. so i guess that’s second-to-last. anyways, i personally think coach k (as he’s (un)affectionately called) is sort of a jerk, but i also think the idea of getting a college coach is a good one — mostly because in college you see a lot of different teams who run a lot of different offenses and defenses. in the 2004 olympics, i think the biggest problem was that larry brown tried to run his same offense against european teams. that’s a problem because in europe they can play zone defense and in the nba you can’t. but larry brown is so cool and so good that he doesn’t need to modify his offense when he plays against other national teams. so i think it’s smart that they’re getting a college coach who has more experience against zone defenses.

the players selected to try out for the usabasketball team are: Carmelo Anthony, Gilbert Arenas, Shane Battier, Chauncey Billups, Chris Bosh, Bruce Bowen, Elton Brand, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Antawn Jamison, Joe Johnson, Shawn Marion, Brad Miller, Adam Morrison, Lamar Odom, Chris Paul, Paul Pierce, J.J. Redick, Michael Redd, Luke Ridnour, Amaré Stoudemire, and Dwyane Wade. i think a lot of the selections are really great. but where’s allen iverson? nowhere to be found.

i recently caught up with mr. jerry colangelo, who headed the selection process. here is the transcription of the interview.

me: hey jerry colangelo, why didn’t you guys get allen iverson? i mean, he’s having the best year of his career. he’s shooting a good percentage, he’s averaging 33 points, 7.4 assists, and 1.9 steals per game (2nd in scoring, 8th in assists,and 7th in steals). last year, larry brown (who i dislike and possibly hate) said that iverson had a better year than his mvp year. well, this year he’s playing even better. are you guys blind?

colangelo: When you look at what we were looking for at any particular position on this team and the components and the composition of this team, we needed some distributors. That’s not to say Iverson is not a distributor. He’s a great scorer; he’s one of the great all-time scorers in the league. But we have seven of the top eight scorers in the NBA presently on this roster and you need someone to distribute the ball. It has to come from the point guard. So, our job description kind of fit the mold of a few other players. Age was another consideration as we look at where we are today, what the ages of the players are today and where they’ll be in just a couple of years. So, if you build a team, as Coach K said earlier, around two or three or four core players, if you will, offensively, then you need people who compliment them in different ways -role players, shooters, defenders, athleticism and distributors. It’s not as much as to why he wasn’t selected, it’s why we selected who we did. That’s no discredit to Allen at all or for other big name players. It was not an all-star team that was selected. It wasn’t the top 10, 15 or 20 players playing in the NBA. It was trying to build a team that had the composition that we were looking for.

me: isn’t there a standing invitation for shaq to join the team? is shaq allowed to join the team if he asks to?

colangelo: He is because his presence would be huge and I need that in more ways than one, Because of respect for who he is and what he could bring to the international game for us he has an open invitation.

me: so that sort of throws out your age excuse, right? i mean, shaq’s older than iverson and is slowing down a lot this year. meanwhile, iverson seems to be getting better. not that he won’t eventually slow down some, but seriously, you say shaq can join the team at any time and then you try to say that iverson’s too old. that’s b.s. jerry. and that thing about needing a distributor. ridnour is a distributor. chris paul is mostly. but billups? have you seen that guy play? he hucks up 3’s any chance he gets. iverson is at least as good a distributor as chauncey billups. probably better. not to mention that iverson was one of the bright spots of 2004’s team. he didn’t play his best basketball, but no one on that team did. (i blame larry brown.) besides, remember how no one wanted to play because they were scared of terrorist attacks? iverson didn’t even hesitate in accepting in 2004. he played hard every game. he didn’t cry his eyes out. i remember somebody who did — carmelo anthony. he cried about his playing time, even though he missed his first 10 shots and shot 25% for the whole tournament. but carmelo crying about stuff doesn’t really surprise me. look at his first 2 years at denver. he was a letdown because he just wanted to shoot all the time and then they benched him. he finally started playing better this year, but he’s still too selfish to be a team player. so they’re proably going to regret inviting him and his crying. back to iverson. all the criticism about not being a team player doesn’t make very much sense to me. who does he have on his team? chris webber? that guy can’t jump. korver? he doesn’t play defense. iguodala is sweet. who has iverson had on his team in the past? keith van horn, theo ratliff, eric snow, dikembe mutombo, etc. of course he scores a lot. well, i thought that maybe we should look at his all star stats to get a good idea about how he would play if surrounded by superstars. in five all-star games (excluding that year when t-mac went nuts and 2006), he shot 45.7% from the field and 83.9% from the free throw line to score 20.8 points per game, and he averaged 3 rebounds, 8.4 assists, and 3.2 steals per game. besides, look how great he looks all the time. (for more on that, see “on picking a favorite player.”) why wouldn’t you want iverson on your team? i think you made a serious mistake, mr. colangelo.
i can see three possibilities for you guys snubbing him. i think it’s a combination of them all. but i think the second is the biggest. you can tell me what you think afterwards.
reason#1: i speculate larry brown probably talked bad about iverson when you were asking about him. i think brown did this to put the blame of losing on the players, which he has repeatedly done since 2004. he’s always said things about how none of the players played with any heart. he’s always put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the players in the olympics and he’s never had to take any crap for not being able to implement an offense that works. so it was probably just part of his cover-up to say that iverson wasn’t a team player.
reason#2: iverson has a reebok contract. not a single member of the team has a reebok contract. 4 players have adidas contracts and i don’t know who sponsors chris bosh, but every other player (except college kids who can’t have endorsements) is sponsored by nike. 15 players with nike contracts and 1 player with a converse contract (nike owns converse). you might think that this is easily explained by the fact that nike simply sponsors more players than reebok or adidas. that makes sense. but guess what happened 3 days before they announced the list of players who would be invited to try out for the olympic team? usabasketball and nike signed a multiyear deal making nike the exclusive apparel outfitter of the usa basketball team. this (non)coincidence isn’t so easily explained. you had some pressure on you to pick players sponsored by nike. tell me it’s not true, jerry, i dare you.
reason#3: iverson is too hip hop for usa basketball to embrace him. you and coach kraoiwerz probably agree with stern that they need to change the image of basketball in the united states by giving it more of a corporate look. (for more on that, read brian’s “of course the nba dress code is racist.”) well, i think you guys blew it. seriously. bruce bowen? are you kidding?

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