Wednesday, July 12, 2006

12 Good Men. Plus Kirk.

Gilbert Arenas was on the phone with Coach K for half an hour the other day, telling him he would do "whatever it takes" to earn a spot on the Olympic team this summer. While I'm sure submitting a tape of the Wizar*s first round series with the Cavs will suffice, Agent Zero said he had already mastered the shorter 3 - "its like a layup" - not to mention his willingness to guard full court, dive on the floor, run through walls.

Works for me.

How great is it to have someone - other than AI - who actually wants to be there? This is a good sign. A very good sign. I long for the days of beating Angola 192-7. Sadly, those are long gone, but we should still be rocking the gold around our collective necks every four years. Shouldn't we?

Yea, we should!

I mean, our international dominance is pretty much non-existant at this point. We were an after thought at the World Baseball Classic. Our showing at the World Cup was...um, dissapointing (although J├╝rgen Klinsmann left Team Germany to move back to Cali...and coach US soccer! Yea!). I supposed the fact that we realy couldn't care less about international play factors in, but it still sucks to lose to countries smaller than Rhode Island. Too bad football isn't in the Olympics.

Right now USA Hoops has 22 players on its "training camp" roster. 10 have to be cut. We already know Gilbert is making the squad...so here's his 11 teammates for Operation: Be Good At Basketball Again.

Point Guard. First things first: its a matter of national security that Kirk Hinrich get on this team. USA basketball really botched it when they made Luke Ridnour the token white PG. Its really too bad he isn't there, because he and Chris Paul could run the show for the next...well, a really long time. Both are unselfish, but both step up when need be. Paul is a better penatrator and passer, but Hinrich is the better shooter. The two of them together? Joga Bonita. As it is, just CP3 will be rocking the red, white and blue. Shame, really.
Chris Paul (1).

Shooting guard. Here's where the US should exert its overwhelming dominance. Remember how USA basketball used to mean point guards? Well, they all evolved into two guards because they wanted to shoot todamn much. Regardless, we're stacked at this position. Locks include Kobe, D. Wade and the aforementioned Arenas.

We'll need some perimeter defense, which means either Bruce Bowen or Josh Howard. I'm inclined to go with Howard, for a couple of reasons: 1) He's not the dirtiest player in the NBA; Bowen is; 2) Howard is a better on the ball defender, while Bowen specializes more in chasing guys of screens; the international game has more drivers than screen-readers (think Manu, not Rip); and 3) Bowen is useless offensively, while Howard isn't. Plus, Howard is used to a subservient offensive role, being the third option being Dirk and JET. He actually thrives in that environment. Keeping in mind the team mind frame, that's crucial.

Still need a shooter...that's kind of important in the international game, yes? True, Areans is pretty much as good as it gets, but he's gonna be tired from guarding the ball full court. Gotta be either Michael Redd or Joe Johnson. While Johnson is probably a better ball handler, Redd can absolutely stroke the ball. Freakin' dead eye. Redd gets the nod.

Oh, Billups isn't coming because Piper is going to give birth soon, and he's way too cool for the Olympics anyways.
Arenas (2), Kobe (3), Wade (4), J. Howard (5), Redd (6).

Swing. LeBron. Duh. And that's pretty much it in that category. Let's list the reasons why everyone else isn't coming:

  • 'Melo: Basically only effective when scoring. Team USA has plenty of that; the last thing they need is a volume shooter. Don't get me wrong, 'Melo is a helluva scorer...but what else does he do? Throw in the debacle at the last Olympics, and I think its better he sits at home.
  • Paul Pierce: Pretty much ditto. Just needs the ball too much.
  • Antawn Jamison: Um...he sucks?
  • Shawn Marion: See, the Olympics are about actual, discernable basketball skills. Marion has none. Hell of an athlete, perfect for Phoenix's system...but how terrible did he look last Olympics? Quite frankly (QUITE FRANKLY!), I'm stunned he's even on the invite list. Oh, and while we're here, here's Chuck Klostermann: "His jump shot resembles a jackrabbit heaving a pumpkin out of a manhole." Ah, that does it for me every time.
  • Lamar Odom: Security is tight on those international flights. Bongs don't travel well.
  • Shane Battier. Yea, he could be an intangibles guy...but I really don't think he's that good. I mean, The Logo just traded him...what's that tell you?
Not to worry, though. LeBron has the strength of 10 men. His passing skills from the small forward spot will be huge in the international game, not to mention his freakish ability in transition. Good pick, me.
LeBron (7).

On the Block. Brad Miller has to be a lock here. He's a true center, plus he can step out and shoot, not to mention his passing ability, particularly from the high post. Dwight Howard is in, because he's insanely athletic and he doesn't need the ball to score: he'll get all his points on the glass after leading the L in rebounding last year. Or he was second..whatever, I don't feel like looking it up, but he was really good at it. Great, even. Elton Brand and Chris Bosh are too skilled, too talented to leave off. And the ability to step out and shoot and handle the ball a little bit are key. Pure basketball skills are paramount in the international game, and these two are as skilled a big man as you will find.
Bosh (8), Brand (9), D. Howard (10), Miller (11).

The Wildcard. Here's where things get sticky. Under ideal circumstances, this is where you put Amare. Give the guy the ball on the elbow or the block, its a bucket. Runs the floor like a gazelle (always wanted to say that), finishes like a monster, all over the boards, can defend...do you see a downside? I don't. But his status is still up in the air. How hurt is he? Will he be 100%? Who knows? If he wants to play, and is healthy, I say suit him up.

But if not? Well, then I think you have to look heavily at Battier. Get another versatile defender who won't want the ball and can knock down the open shot. A team guy. Its a pretty steep drop off from Amare to Battier, but I think its the way to go.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

So who's your starting 5? Probably something like this: CP3 at the 1, Kobe at the 2, LeBron at the 3, Brand at the 4 and Miller at the 5.

The great part about this team is the lack of clashing personalities. Wade has already demonstrated the ability to be a option No. 2, but then take over at crunch time. Arenas already said he'll do "whatever." Josh Howard thrives as the un-focal point of an offense. LeBron gave his teammates every opportunity in the world to succeed last year; he was unselfish to a fault. Kobe has to continue rebuilding his image; he has no choice but to be a team player on this kind of stage. Of the big guys, only Bosh and maybe Brand really need the ball to thrive.

And are there two people in the world you'd want in a big spot more than Kobe or Wade? Didn't think so.

So while its not the perfect American team (come play with us Shaq, Duncan, T.Mac, KG, Kidd...HINRICH!), its more than serviceable. That's a gold medal team right there, no doubt.

Now its up to Coach K to make the right decisions.

(Gulp.)

3 comments so far. Might as well add your own.:

forward4 said...

it would be interesting to see shaq and kobe play together again on the same team....you know, after that "fake handshake/we are cool now b/c bill russel told me to be" thing at half court during christmas.

Zero said...

Kirk Hinrich, Uncle Sam wants you.

Uncles Krzyzewski and Colangelo as well, it turns out.

And it seems as if they have him.

The Bulls guard will be added to the USA Basketball team that plays in the world championships next month and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, NBA sources confirmed Tuesday.

Hinrich was unavailable for comment, though an announcement is expected this week. A total of 23 players will begin preparations and training July 19 in Las Vegas, though there seems a good chance Hinrich will make the final cut of 12 players to go overseas with the team starting Aug. 6 in China.

Hinrich's chances are enhanced because questions have developed about the participation of several players this summer and the team is considered weak at point guard, especially defensively.

Hinrich initially declined an invitation this spring, but coach Mike Krzyzewski and managing director Jerry Colangelo reportedly appealed to Hinrich to reconsider. Friends around the Bulls said Hinrich had expressed regrets after declining the initial invitation and eagerly accepted

i guess i should read this before i commented

go kirk

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