Sunday, July 30, 2006

Put him in the Hall of Fame already

Dwyane Wade's good, fine, but why are writers so obsessed with this guy? It's like some magical force is drawing them towards every single action he performs and then forcing these writers to glorify him in their articles. Enough is enough. Especially since the articles suck.

"Wade May Lead Team USA." Ira Winderman. July 30, 2006.

That title sound familiar? Hmm...

It doesn't look like Dwyane's world is going to stop spinning anytime soon.


Fresh off his Most Valuable Player performance in the NBA Finals, Dwyane Wade offered such a compelling effort at USA Basketball's just-completed tryout camp that coach Mike Krzyzewski isn't sure he hasn't found his captain.

Grand. Now please proceed to tell me more about this certainly highly capable individual who must indeed have performed some daring exploits to be described by you with such high esteem.

Asked if a player had emerged as "the natural leader" of the eclectic group, the Duke coach last week singled out the Heat guard, as he concluded the first session of national team training.

Aha, so LeBron isn't natural. I suspected it all along. Let's prepare the Grand Jury right away.

"If there's one guy who everyone looks up to, because of his most recent accomplishment, it's Dwyane Wade," Krzyzewski said.

If they already look up to him for his "most recent accomplishment," why talk about his "compelling effort" at tryout camp?

With commitment the byword of the newly structured national team, Krzyzewski marveled at how Wade arrived in Las Vegas with a splint but without excuses.

Ira, you make it sound as if Wade just suffered several compound fractures on his hand, a thigh contusion, a mild concussion, and two torn ligaments, and is still playing. Sadly, that is far from the truth. Wade, on his "injury": " It's just a little bruise, so I'm just trying to take caution.''

"I was talking to Bruce Bowen and all of a sudden I see [Wade] walking out and I thought, `Oh, this isn't good,'" Krzyzewski said. "He had his MRI on his wrist and everything was fine, but the trainer said he couldn't move his hand real well and probably wouldn't be able to play.

Oh no! Somebody do something! He might get hurt!

"And the next morning he's at every drill. Every drill."

drill? As in every? Whoa.

Wade is younger than eight of the 14 other finalists who will reconvene Monday in Las Vegas for another camp, depart Friday for an Asian tour and then continue on to the World Championships in Japan. But at 24, he's developed a following.

Yes, with this article you certainly attest to that.

"He defines leadership by example," Krzyzewski said.

Ah, but of course. He's natural, remember?

Krzyzewski said with a deep roster he will rotate starters and limit minutes, but one gets the sense Wade will get his share of playing time.

Yes, one certainly does, does one not? I mean, without Wade's leadership, how far can Team USA even dream of going?

For a U.S. squad needing a gold to avoid next summer's Olympic qualifications, that's good; for the Heat, which begins camp less a month after the Sept. 3 conclusion of the World Championships, it could mean a fatigued team leader at the start of the season.

But perhaps he shall once again arrive "with a splint and no excuses." And maybe, just maybe, he'll participate in every drill. And I mean every. After all, this is no mere mortal we're talking about, it's Dwyane Wade.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Looking Back at 2005-2006, 1st Edition

With NBA action slowed to a crawl this summer, here's the first edition in looking back at the stupidest articles of 2005-2006 one by one. First up, one of the countless articles bemoaning the supposed death of the NBA.

"Death of the Team Hurts NBA." Jeff Greer. April 11, 2006

The NBA playoffs are fast approaching, and that can only mean one thing: It's time to turn your televisions off.

Let's see what insanely illogical arguments you can cook up to support this.

That is, if you aren't a big fan of one-on-one possessions, two-month playoffs and dulled-down talent. Still, many fans hang on, finding solace in the perfect teams that reach the later rounds in the playoffs every year (see: the Spurs and the Pistons).

First of all, what's wrong with a two-month playoff? Nobody's asking you to watch every single round, let alone every single game- forget that you even get paid to watch and write about these games and still complain. Second, how in the world can you justify the "dulled-down" talent comment? Gilbert Arenas, Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant... the list could go on forever. When has there been more talent? Finally, the "perfect teams reach later rounds" comment is completely baseless. I remember a certain team winning 6 championships in the 90's with literally one player. Or how about that other team that won 3 championships with literally 2 players? I'm sure they weren't"perfect" in your estimation.

I remember discussing the NBA with my dad, a diehard fan through the years. My old man reminisced about the days of old, when teams like the Celtics, Lakers, Pistons, Rockets, Suns and 76ers used their nucleus of players --- players that formed a family with one another --- to reach legendary levels of NBA history.

Yeah, too bad we won't be seeing any more legendary teams ever again, on account of the fact that players won't form families any more... it certainly brings a tear to your eye, doesn't it?

How did they do it?

With their family formation, obviously.

They did it by getting up and down the floor, scoring in transition, finding the open guy and making the extra pass. They did with last-second heroics and full-tilt hustle. They did it with passion.

How I wish teams would get up and down the floor and score in transition these days... I mean it's now a full quarter or so in between alley oop dunks on the break. How awesome, how high flying the glory days of your old man must have been. And you know what I miss the most? It's that full-tilt hustle. Not just ordinary hustle. But full-tilt. When Allen Iverson goes to the floor for a loose basketball and five 250 pound guys land on him, he's just not doing it with enough passion. Nothing whatsoever when compared with the New York Knickerbockers' inspiring defense on Wilt Chamberlain on that fateful day. I mean, five defenders were nearly touching him (!) and he still made the shots. Now that is really the definition of full-tilt.

Then came Michael Jordan and NBA fans forgot about teamwork and group efforts and began remembering a single player's number.

Great idea. Blame the greatest player in the history of the game for ruining the NBA.

Michael Jordan --- one of the greatest athletes of all time and certainly the most famous basketball player ever --- took basketball and turned it into an individual's game.

Whoa. You describe MJ as one of the "greatest athletes" and "famous players"? No mention of basketball ability whatsoever? Oh yeah, wait a minute, he was a terrible basketball player. Who are we kidding, anyway. It's all his fault. That stupid, famous, athletic guy.

Now we see guys like Ricky Davis toss the ball off his own team's backboard with no one around to collect his 10th rebound and post a triple-double for his own benefit. We see Kobe Bryant take 45 shots or the Cavaliers stand around and watch as LeBron James attempts to break down the five opponents guarding him.

So Ricky Davis' selfish behavior is a direct consequence of Michael Jordan's athleticness/fame. I would have never guessed. Kobe taking 45 shots? No way, what does he think he's going to do, score 80?

There is nothing wrong with the spectacular talent these players possess. In fact, nothing is more exhilarating or exciting than watching some of the world's finest athletes go head-to-head in a battle of egos.

Hey, watch out, generally you don't argue against yourself when trying to make a point, however idiotic.

But somewhere along the line, the fans lost their way. They lost interest in the games and lost interest in their cities' team.

Really? I would argue that it's you who lost the way somewhere along the line. As well as, apparently, your mind.

A lot of fans will tell you that they only watch college hoops these days. The NBA is too slow for them, they don't relate to the new faces of the league and they don't like the illusion of laziness that NBA players put across.

Illusion of laziness? This conjures up the following (imaginary) scene.

Shaun Livingston (apprentice) dives for a loose ball.
Cassell (master): Hey, you don't look lazy enough.
Livingston lies down on court.
Cassell: That's better.
Fan #1: Look at that lazy guy. Let's go watch some college hoops where the guys dribble around for 35 seconds and fire ridiculous heaves at the bucket from 30 feet away.
Fan #2: Yeah, you're right dude, I can't relate to these new faces anyways.

This is problematic. People want to see scoring. People want to see fast breaks. People want to see dunks and 3-pointers, alley-oops and fluid offenses. They want to see something different.

Please define "people." For all I know, two natives in some Amazonian rainforest could be offering live animals in a ritual in an attempt to "see something different."

If they want to watch fundamental basketball, they'll watch college or high school basketball. The NBA has slowed down its games, extending the 3-point line, allowing zone defenses while calling continuation fouls when LeBron James gets fouled at halfcourt and somehow converts an and-one lay in.

Blame that athlete guy who was famous.

The NBA needs to relax a little bit. They need to contract and really condense the talent. If teams have legitimately stacked lineups, then the games will be more interesting.

One of your earlier proclamations was that the San Antonio Spurs were a "perfect team." In my estimation, any team that starts Rasho Nesterovic at center is as far from perfect as is physically possible.

No offense, David Stern, but the prospect of a starting lineup that includes Steve Blake, Juan Dixon, Viktor Khryapa, Zach Randolph and Joel Pryzbilla playing for their 60th loss of the season doesn't entice me to tune in to any Blazers games.

Who is !#$@## telling you to watch the Portland Trail Blazers?!!! You write this entire article as if somebody has a gun to your head and a TV in front of you permanently tuned to games of teams which seemingly bore you the most.

I also don't think watching the Washington Wizards in the playoffs --- a team with a lineup that features Jared Jeffries and Brendan Haywood --- is something I want to do for two weeks of my summer.

Anyone that does not want to watch Gilbert Arenas play is either crazy or a Golden State Warriors fan. I'm going with the first one, considering your distaste for "non-perfect" teams.

In the playoffs, the lower seeds no longer have a shot at upsets. The five-game, first-round series are gone, replaced by the two-week, seven-game sets that weed out the upset specials.

Yet another horrible argument. This is getting positively sickening (but still fun.) A bad team loses to a very good team regardless of whether one plays 5 or 7 games. Period.

Put together a league that has potential for upsets and potential for excitement. Put together a league that features 10 to 15 teams with solid lineups. I want teams that have five all-stars in their starting rotation.

Quite the greedy little fellow, aren't you? 15 teams with 5 all-stars in their starting rotation?!!! Are you mad? 15 x 5 = 75. 75 all-stars. Think about that. There are about 300 players in the NBA. You want 75 of them to be All-Stars.

Currently, the Pistons and Spurs are really the only teams that we can count on for that in today's NBA.

Oh my. You just commented earlier how the Spurs and Pistons were the "perfect teams" due to their passing and all that good stuff. And now you commend them for having all-stars (of which their starting lineups are not entirely composed, by the way) whom you said were ruining the game with one-on-one play?

As a league with actual rules on salaries and fairness, the NBA needs to produce a product similar to the NFL. The NFL makes its game marketable with parity, giving arguably 12 to 15 cities a year a decent shot at making the Super Bowl. If the NBA could guarantee competitiveness in 12 cities, the fan base would explode.

12 to 15 cities a year can win their conference in the NFL? WhaaAA? Please, please, please tell me you meant 12 to 15 cities a year have a decent shot of making the playoffs. That's what you meant... right?

NBA games are fun to go to. The entertainment during breaks excites the little kids, the raw talent attracts legitimate basketball fans and the nice atmosphere --- in most arenas --- makes for a quality night of fun. But the fact that only three or four teams have an actual chance to win anything makes the season seem almost pointless.

You apparently are not, nor have ever been a fan of any team. (Well, excluding the all-powerful "perfect" ones of course, on whose bandwagon you have clearly jumped.)

So bring back the days of old, Mr. Stern. Bring us eight teams, 10 teams, maybe even 15 teams that can compete every year. Make the playoffs shorter. Give us five-game series and seven games in nine days. And, of course, don't allow Isiah Thomas to be anyone's general manager.

Here's a better idea. Invent a time machine, go back to 1985 and make sure that that conniving, two-timing, no good athletic/famous guy never gets the chance to dirty the pure, perfect, 75 player All-Star roster boasting National Basketball Association of yesteryear. Seriously. It's our only hope to ever see even a glimmer of that full-tilt hustle. And let's not even get into the passion.

Just save the NBA. Because at this time of year, the only other sport on television that has exciting potential in the playoffs is the NHL. Please don't make me watch the NHL.

Please, Mr. Stern. I have half the necessary equipment here, ready to donate. Just arrange for 2 billion dollars worth of investment money. You're our last hope. Just make sure you get that time machine built at all costs.


Jeff Greer intends to waste half of his summer watching the NBA playoffs. Do you? E-mail him at

Jeff Greer, congratulations on your inductance to the Bill Walton Hall of Fame. We knew you could do it.

Sporting News Again

"The summer of sticker shock." Dave D'Alessandro. Sporting News.

It is the nature of the basketball business that teams of a given era tend to sport a pea-pod congruence and appear sufficiently cloned that they cannot be distinguished from one another without the aid of tattoos.

Forget the horribly elongated opening sentence, this is a terrible clai m to make. I'm not sure about you, but I think I can easily tell the Detroit Pistons apart from the Seattle Supersonics without looking at Rasheed's tattoos. Amazing, I know.

Everyone needs a lights-out shooter nowadays, so the Hornets grabbed Peja Stojakovic -- who shot 43.7 percent last year. He will get $64 million over five seasons.


Everyone needs a defensive anchor, so the Bulls threw most of their available bankroll at Ben Wallace -- who was beginning to show age spots last spring. He will receive $60 million over four years.

Don't forget, they also got his tattoos.

Welcome to the cognitive dissonance portion of our program.

Main Entry: cognitive dissonance
Function: noun
psychological conflict resulting from simultaneously held incongruous beliefs and attitudes (as a fondness for smoking and a belief that it is harmful)

Stojakovic and Wallace are accomplished players who could be great again. But when in the past decade -- outside of the Suns-Steve Nash marriage of '04 -- has a team hit a grand slam by spending that kind of green on another team's player?

The more relevant question here would be when has a team spent that kind of green on another team's player in the past decade? Go look it up, it hasn't happened often.

It's just that when you spend that kind of money, you had better make damn sure it gets you over the top. And I'm not so sure it does for the Hornets or Bulls. They have improved, certainly, but how does an offensive albatross such as Wallace get $15 million a season? Or a nondefender like Stojakovic get $13 million per? Why are teams giving franchise money to guys who play only one side of the floor?

Here be the answers in order: (1) because he's one of the top three defenders in the game. (2) because he's one of the top three shooters in the game. (3) because a "franchise" player doesn't need to be the best in the game on both sides.

Then there are the role players. Matt Harpring, Speedy Claxton, Darius Songaila and Joel Przybilla got inflated deals when general managers fooled themselves into thinking that spending their salary cap exception money will make them not only more competitive but more profitable.


Reality check: More than half the teams lost money last season. A dozen teams paid the luxury tax. And the vast majority, it now seems, has to go at least two rounds into the playoffs to make back these salaries.

But, as you said, it's not my problem. I'm just here to add up the score.

Now comes the fun part.


Bulls. The thought doesn't go away that Wallace based his decision on one thing: He wanted to find a coach who could beat him in a stare down. A great defensive team (which fouled too much) has become better. It's a nice mix all around.

Wait, didn't you just bash the Bulls for making a deal that "won't put them over the top?" What of the offensive albatross?

Hornets. They loaded up on athletic bigs in the draft and added Tyson Chandler via trade. Stojakovic and Bobby Jackson figure to give them the veteran edge they need. Don't know how Peja at shooting guard will work, though.

Of course, the Hornets didn't get Stojakovic for his shooting or Bobby Jackson for his speed off the bench. They got them for their "veteran edge," which will surely created 10 additional wins this year. One more thing: didn't you just bash the Stojakovic signing as well? The Hornets, in your estimation, made a bad acquisition and that makes them... a winner?

Clippers. They basically swapped Vladimir Radmanovic for Tim Thomas, which is an upgrade because Thomas can play three positions. More important, they re-signed Sam Cassell, which gives Shaun Livingston one more year of needed apprenticeship. They're still on the rise.

This makes Shaun Livingston sound like a Padawan or something, with Sam Cassell as his Jedi Master. Let's just hope he doesn't turn to the Dark Side... or Darth Livingston may take over the NBA.


Nuggets. Nene got $60 million. For a guy who has averaged 10.7 points and 6.2 rebounds in his career, the Nuggets may not have been bidding against anybody but themselves.

No argument.

Lakers. They signed Radmanovic (for 31 large, yikes) and Shammond Williams, which means they're just one stooge short of a routine.

No argument again, but if this is supposed to be funny... I don't know what to say to you.

Timberwolves. This makes it seven teams in 38 months for Mike James. That doesn't make him a bad guy, but think about the tendencies that have made him the Peripatetic Point.

Seven teams in 38 months? Are you serious? Either way, if you watched him play even once this year in Toronto, you would know that he's definitely capable.

Knicks. Sorry, just a habit.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Jury's out

Haha, I love that the description for this article reads "Don't feel bad if you can't believe some of the money that's been thrown around in the NBA this season — neither can Dave D'Alessandro. But he's not too shocked to pick his summer winners and losers," and that he ends it with a "Jury's Out" section. Hilarious.

Pistons. The knee-jerk chorus says losing Wallace is a death knell, but for the Pistons to go to $60 million would have been insane. He will turn 32 in September, his skills have declined and he was personally responsible for shrinking the Pistons' playbook by 50 percent. They needed a change. Nazr Mohammed and Flip Murray will be solid contributors, and Detroit will be formidable again.

That is absurd. Ben Wallace's offensive ineptness accounted for 50% of the Pistons' playbook?! 50%? Basically your claim is that had the Pistons had a better shooting center or whatever, they would have run 50% of their plays for him (or at least through him)? I thought claiming that David Stern wanted to "abolish defense" was the height of idiocy, but I'm forced to reconsider.

Nets. Last summer, after a bunch of doctors nixed the Shareef Abdur-Rahim idea, the Nets earmarked $11 million toward a new bench (Marc Jackson, Jeff McInnis, Scott Padgett, Lamond Murray). This summer, they decided to build a bench through the draft, and they expect to have three rookies in the rotation. Sitting out this market is logical for a tax-paying team, but the Nets still are one big away from contention.

So basically they know they're one "big" away, and yet they're still sitting around doing nothing. And all this after rejecting a "big" last summer. How this exempts them from qualifying as "losers" only Dave D'Alessandro would know.

Dave D'Alessandro is the NBA writer for The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J.

Dave D'Alessandro's got nothing on Bill Walton.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Some Big Ben Bashing

"Still a Second City." Ira Winderman. Sporting News.

Sorry, still not sold -- even with Ben Wallace in Chicago and out of Detroit. My money, at least when it comes to the playoffs, remains on the Pistons.

Question: Who's been "selling" the fact that the Bulls are better than the Pistons? I really don't think anybody believes that at this point.

Detroit returns All-Stars Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Chauncey Billups, and Tayshaun Prince could add that designation.

Being an All-Star is relatively meaningless. See Vince Carter circa 2004.

If Rasheed Wallace accepts he has to play more at center, he could do plenty to offset the loss of his namesake. Rasheed has shied from the physical, in-the-paint role since his peak years with the Blazers, but when the Pistons' best possible lineup (not necessarily the one they would start games with) is compared with the Bulls', why is it that Chicago is suddenly so universally viewed as the better team?

I absolutely love that the "Piston's best possible lineup" is "not necessarily the one they would start games with." Flip Saunders for Coach of the Year!

Go ahead, score at home:

I don't think you want me to. But oblige you, I shall.

Rasheed vs. Ben?

Ben, 05-06: 7.3 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 1.8 spg, 2.21 bpg.
Rasheed, 05-06: 15.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.0 spg, 1.6 bpg.

And I think this little stat will explain the scoring discrepancy quite well:

Ben, 05-06: 5.67 FGA/g
Rasheed, 05-06: 13.0 FGA/g

Antonio McDyess vs. Andres Nocioni?

Good thing you concede defeat on this one (further down) or I would have some harsh words indeed.

Prince vs. Luol Deng?

Deng, 05-06: 14.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.6 bpg
Prince, 05-06: 14.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.3 spg, 0.7 spg, 0.5 bpg

This one's the very definition of a tie... and yet you think Prince wins?

Hamilton vs. Kirk Hinrich? Billups vs. Ben Gordon or Chris Duhon?

Great. Compare the SG with the PG and the PG with the SG. That sure makes a lot of sense. Why didn't we just compare Hamilton with Ben Wallace? Or even better, why not Eric Piatkowski with Kelvin Cato?

This judge's card: 4-1 Pistons, with Nocioni getting a slight nod over McDyess at power forward.

This judge's card: You are crazy. You set out to prove something quite easily provable- that the Pistons are better than the Bulls- and failed disastrously. Why in the world would you even attempt to make individual comparisons? The whole reason the Pistons enjoyed their success was their willingness to share the ball, make the extra pass, and all that other stuff.

Yes, the Bulls have superior depth and the promise of newcomers Tyrus Thomas and Thabo Sefolosha. But in a playoff situation, depth tends to be mitigated,

Depth tends to be mitigated? Mark Cuban on the phone. He'd like to have a word with you.

and youth almost always takes a back seat.

Ever hear of a guy called Dwyane Wade? Lebron James? Tim Duncan circa 1999?

Ultimately, Chicago remains an all-or-nothing perimeter proposition that plays off feeds from a well-crafted drive-and-kick game.

What's wrong with a drive-and-kick game? Ever hear of Kobe and Shaq? Duncan and Spurs guards?

The Wallace who could have benefited the Bulls the most is Rasheed, with his varied offensive repertoire

Do you seriously think that Chicago tried to get Ben Wallace for his offense? Because... they didn't.

and defensive length.

Rasheed Wallace does not play better defense than Ben Wallace. Almost nobody does. And if you don't believe me, scroll up and read those stats again.

No one doubts the energy, commitment and leadership delivered by Ben Wallace. But the reality is his rebounding average has declined the past three years and his blocked shots average has gone down the past four.

Fair enough. Chicago's certainly taking some sort of risk here with that contract.

The game also is changing. David Stern's push to have defense abolished likely will gain momentum. This certainly is not a time to be playing four on five.

Wow. Wow. Wow. David Stern's push to have defense abolished? Wow. This is the height of idiocy. I suggest you go listen to David Stern the next time he talks. I'm not even going to comment.

With the $60 million spent on Wallace in a four-year commitment that takes the center up to his 36th birthday, the Bulls essentially purchased hope. Considering where the franchise has been since the Jordan era ended, that is a priceless commodity.

And that is bad, how?

But the ultimate challenge for Chicago has not changed.

Would you please define their "Ultimate Challenge?"

The growth into a legitimate contender must come from the youthful perimeter players VP John Paxson has collected.

So their "Ultimate Challenge" is becoming a legitimate contender, then? Fine.

In that respect, Ben Wallace stands as a bridge to the future, a conduit to greater success.


But he hardly is an immediate trigger to a title.

At least they'll succeed in the Ultimate Challenge!

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?

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Welcome to "FIRE BILL WALTON," which is basically "FIRE JOE MORGAN," basketball version.