Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Finally, Some Real Basketball

I'm a basketball junkie.

Whether it be long couch sessions watching ESPN Classic's NBA's Greatest Games or NBA TV or even the 2007 Final Four games I recorded or the NBA Summer League games on my DVR; the point is, I need basketball to watch.

That's what makes the summer so frustrating. On one hand, you have the ending of the playoffs, then the Draft, and then the summer leagues, and then you might be able to handle a little chill time. You know, try to recoup some of the six months you wasted searching through box scores and ignoring dates to check scores on your phone. But that need for down time doesn't last long, or not at all.

After the summer leagues, the free agency period starts and then there comes the trade rumors and obligatory big deal that sets the world on its ear. Then, as fans, we can't wait to see the new players along with our favorite rookies with their new respective teams. (Luckily, NBA Live usually comes out around late-September-early October, but even that feels like forever. And never mind NCAA March Madness. That comes out late November.My suggestion: Get into NFL Madden deep and ride that out until the fall.)

The point is, I, like every other true hoops fan, have been yearning for some real basketball competition since that travesmockery of an NBA Finals last June.

Thankfully, tonight we get our first real look at the U.S. Men's National Team. The U.S. squad, sans my dude Kevin Durant, will face Venezuala in the first game in the preliminary round.

We get to see Kobe. We get to see Lebron. We get to see Carmelo, Amare, Kidd, and the rest of the guys that made the final cut. I should be super-excited right? Yes and no. I have some causes for concern about this squad, and not just because Mike Krzyzewski is coaching. (Well, actually that's one of the main reasons.) Too many issues are keeping me from truly staking 100% faith in America's reclaiming world dominance in roundball.

1. Coach K is Running the Show -- Why Krzyzewski was picked to be the U.S. guiding light is beyond me. He hasn't been at the top of his sport since 2001. He has very minimal experience in coaching a large group of grown men superstars (His Duke teams all catered to his system. Even when he had a bunch of All-Americans on one team they all conformed and most of them never reached their full potential. UNC's Roy Williams would have been better suited for this group than Mr. American Express.) And most of all, he's Coach K. From Duke. About 87% of the players in the NBA probably hate his guts.

2. The Best Players aren't Playing -- Sure we have Kobe, Bron, Melo, Amare, and Kidd. Sure we finally have true point guards, a few shooters, some big men. But we don't have the best point guards (besides Kidd. Deron Williams is really good and Chauncey will be used more as a shooter than distributor. But no Chris Paul or Baron Davis. What country on the planet can stop a trio of Kidd, Paul, or BD? I didn't think so.) And tell me you wouldn't rather have Ray Allen and an un-retired Reggie Miller in place of Redd and Miller. And why we're at it, where's Garnett, Duncan and Shaq? Add them with Amare and you have the reincarnation of the Monstars. We're the only country in the world who isn't sending out our very best players. (Though some are due to injury.)

3. Some Players' Games Don't Fit the International Style -- Namely Lebron James and Tyson Chandler. Don't get me wrong. I am admittedly one of Lebron's biggest fans, but nothing about his game says "international play". The zones always limit most of his driving ability; and he's still not a good enough mid-range shooter to be very effective in the half-court. The zones also take away much of his court vision and passing. Tracy McGrady would be a better fit for the U.S. team (but with that nagging back of his, let's hold off on that for a few summers.) Chandler's main (read: only) strengths are shot-blocking and offensive rebounds. We have Dwight Howard for that, and he's much better at it than Tyson. His limited offensive repetoire makes him a huge liability in half-court sets.

4. We Still Don't Get The International Rules -- In Team USA's game Saturday against the US Select Team, with the Senior Team down in the final seconds and after the Select Team's Al Jefferson missed a free throw, Carmelo Anthony grabbed the rebound and immediately called timeout. Much to his and the big boy squad's chagrin, only the coach can call a timeout in international competition. (Why didn't Coach Amex tell his players that beforehand? Beats me. ESPN's Chris Sheridan also questions if the Duke coach can lead this team in the article above.) That speaks volumes about the team's continued inability to adapt to the FIBA rules. The three-point line is shorter, the game is effectively shorter, and the ball can be knocked off the rim. We still haven't figured out how to combat these different rules and superior athleticism is not going to solve it.

Besides all that, I'm glad to have some real basketball back in my life. I was thisclose to watching a Houston Comets game. Maybe not.

If the internet connection on my laptop wasn't being a total bitch the last couple of days, I would give a live diary of the game against Venezuela tonight. But since that won't be happening, see you tomorrow with a recap. Go U.S.! Go Coach K!

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