Sunday, July 23, 2006

First Official Post

"Team USA should be Dwyane's World." Mike Celizic. MSNBC. July 17.

Great teams need great leaders. It’s not optional, like adjustable power seats on that new lawn tractor you’re thinking of buying. Without a great leader, you don’t win. It’s that simple.

Wow. About time. Mike Celizic finally decides to begin a column by making some sort of a point, and a pretty fair point at that. Too bad he proceeds to immediately dilute whatever effectiveness it may have had with a hideous analogy. Adjustable power seats? New lawn tractor? But, please continue.

And identifying a leader is going to be the most important thing that the team that begins training for a three-year assault on the Beijing Olympics does between now and the World Championships in late summer. It’s not something the coaches can do. The players — and there are several who probably think they should have the job, including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony — are going to have to do that themselves.

Wait, so you're saying that a bunch of players all of whom believe that they should lead will somehow agree that Dwyane Wade is the best leader among them? How exactly does that work? Come to think of it, didn't the exact same thing happen two years ago with Stephon Marbury and Allen Iverson among others? Did you forget about that already?

Going back two years to the Athens Olympics, it’s easy in retrospect to see why the U.S. Olympic Basketball team strutted to a bronze-medal finish. They had no leader, no matter what Stephon Marbury tried to get you to believe. Come to think of it, they didn’t really have any followers, either.

Oh, so you do remember. And you talk about it in the very next sentence! Why do you think the 2004 team didn't have any followers?! See any similarities between a whole team trying to lead, and a team with no followers? Oh, I see. D-Wade isn't going to make the mistake of "trying to get us to believe."

They had Tim Duncan busting his butt with no one helping him,

Duncan's 2004 Olympic Games scoring average: 12.9 ppg
U.S. team 2004 Olympic Games scoring average: 88.1 ppg.
The rest of the guys who scored 75.2 ppg probably weren't "busting their butts."

Allen Iverson trying to make things happen, and 10 other guys who didn’t see the need to exert themselves on defense against the likes of Puerto Rico, Argentina and Spain.

The U.S. beat Spain...

That wasn’t going to happen this year with the team that’s set to begin training Wednesday.

Mr. Celizic, a well written column generally includes two parts: an assertion, and an explanation of why said assertion is true. Don't leave us hanging. It's easy, just tell us why this year's team is different. Okay?

Kobe Bryant was going to be the man. Fully mature as a player and the league’s best player, he was penciled in as the guy who was going to lead a talented and balanced squad through training camp, through the World Championships later this year, through another year of practice and into Beijing in 2008.

That was the plan right up to the eve of the team’s first camp at Duke, home of its coach, Mike Krzyzewski. And then Kobe, who stopped playing basketball about two months ago, realized that he’d totally forgotten to have minor surgery done on his knee. It wasn’t a big procedure, but it would keep him out from six to eight weeks. And because Team USA isn’t going to allow players to show up at the last minute, Kobe is out.

So... the situation is different because Kobe Bryant, who did not play on the 2004 team, is not going to play on the 2008 team either. Okay...

Team USA needs players who want to play and are committed to doing what it takes to win. They need guys like team member Gilbert Arenas of the Wizards, who basically told Krzyzewski and team leader Jerry Colangelo that he would crawl naked on his belly over three miles of broken glass in three inches of sulfuric acid to win back the gold medal.

Arenas, when asked about his desire to make the team: "I have to go out there and win a spot on that team."

So, this time USA Basketball, the national governing body that fields the Olympic and national teams, was determined to do it right. No more NBA coaches carving a few minutes out of their busy schedules to teach the NBA style of play to athletes who needed to know the zone-oriented international style. Instead, Krzyzewski, Mr. Teamwork, would head up the effort.

So Krzyewski is the leader then, not Wade?

But, without Kobe, the team still needs that on-court leader.

Um, make up your mind.

Melo and LeBron were disappointments on the Athens team, with neither playing a lot. Anthony consoled himself by whining about how awful it was to be stuck in one of the oldest and most historically significant cities in the world, having to live on a luxury ocean liner and subsist on filet mignon and champagne — not exactly what you look for in a leader.

What does this have to do with anything?

If I had to name a leader of the national team, right now it would be Wade; he’s proven his mettle in the playoff wars, taking over leadership of a veteran team from one of the biggest names — and bodies — in the game.

But, see, I thought you just wrote an entire column discussing how coaches, writers, etc. could not decide who the leader is and that the players would do that. Now you, of all people, are naming a leader?

But it’s not my call. This is one that has to be determined by the players on the court.

Okay, back to the original argument again.

It could become another nightmare if three strong personalities all want to be the main man.

Doesn't that mean that we shouldn't let the players decide? Which one is it?

It could be the rebirth of American basketball is they all work together and let their play determine who it is.

What the hell kind of sentence is that? What are you talking about?

During the coming weeks, we’ll see which it is to be.

So why did you write this column again?