Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Our Long National Nightmare is Over.

US Hoops finally wised up and added godsend Kirk Hinrich to the "try out" team. (Thanks for the headsup from p23's lightning-fast commentors. You're the best.) Beautiful. "Bout time Team USA is set at PG for the foreseeable future, as long as Chris Paul doesn't go international with his nut-punching routine.

How unhappy is Luke Ridnour right now? His only chance was the little reverse affirmitive action thing US Hoops was trying to pull, but no one is whiter than Kirk Hinrich, plus he would absolutely own Lukey. Tough break, Luke.

The only question left now is, Who does Kirk replace? Because he's making this team. If you assume they'll take Point23's team (and really, why wouldn't they?), you have a couple options. If Amare is a no-go, then give him Battier's spot. If Amare is going...Michael Redd probably gets his passport revoked. Hinrich isn't quite the shooter he is, but he did shoot close to 40% from 3 last season, and he's a better perimeter defender, which we could use - remember him frustrating the hell out of D Wade in Round 1?

Honestly, I'd kick Kobe off to make room for Hinrich. I'm ecstatic he's on the team; I can't say enough good things about it.

Last order of business: He needs a nickname. He's too good not to have one. The old standby of first name initial, first syallable of last name (The Linda Cohn Formula) won't work with Kirk. And no nicknames about him being paler than Casper, either. Captain Kirk has some potential, I think, but I'm not a Star Wars geek or whatever the hell he's from...I'm really at a loss. Suggestions more than welcome.

In related news, looks like JJ won't be able to make it to tryouts, which is a shame. All those Zim...ah, all that back pain is keeping him out. Tough break, his shooting touch could have been useful, but I think we have enough shooters on this team, and JJ couldn't guard Melvin Scott. Morrison, the only other college player to be asked is going to, but he's not making it either. Good. Let's keep it to the pros. Well, I guess he's a pro now, but you know what I mean.

This team is set. I hope Angola qualifies.

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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.)

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New Faces, New Places.

There's been alot of player movement lately, hasn't there? What's that? You feel a little confused? You need it all sorted out for you? What's that? You want a nice, tidy list of the most important moves? Fine, fine...but only because it's you. I wouldn't do this for anyone else. Just you.

The Most Important Moves of the Off Season, So Far, In Descending Order:

The New Ball. The NBA unveils a new ball for no real good reason. The grips better, I guess. Whatever. It looks cool. Point23 approves. Matters.

Mike Gansey signs a 2 year deal with the Heat. I'm telling you, this matters. In 10 years, when they do the "How Everyone Should Have Been Drafted" thing, Gansey will be in the top 10. He'll be a solid role player on a championship-caliber team(s), while 75% of this draft is flipping burgers. (Actually, they all went to college. Hmm. They'll all be managers. At burger joints.) Plus, he might wear a t-shirt in an NBA game. Have I mentioned this yet?

Tyson Chandler for PJ and JR. The Bulls get a tall guy who can actually put the ball in the basket, so thats nice. Plus they have Mr. Unlimited Potential in JR Smith. The NOOCH get a tall neck beard to play some D. Whatever.

Lakers sign Vlad Rad. Kobe has a shooter now. Like he's passing anyways. Even though the Lakers needed a shooter, if Vlad is starting for you, you aren't that good. Good job though. Filled a need. Hopefully Mr. Tumnus takes advantage of it.

Peja signs with NOOCH. Peja should fit in offensively for the NOOCH - but not for 64 million dollars over 5 years. Are you kidding me? This makes the Nene deal look responsible. That...that's just too much money. You do that deal if you are a piece away from a conference or league title. Not too get you into the playoffs. How good does the NOOCH think they are? I think they they are a legit contender, they're kidding themselves. This isn't the NFL; you don't go from not making the playoffs to winning it all.

I like the NOOCH bringing in Bobby Jackson though. I always liked his game, even in college with Minnesoata. (By the way, I can't believe I'm old enough that I remember guys playing in college who are close to retiring - or actually retiring. Kinda freakin myself out right now.)

Nene gets 60 million (dollars!) from the Nuggets. Cripes. I don't even know what to make of this...Just like with the Peja deal, I'd like to see what the next closest offer was. Was it even in the ballpark? I mean, now that Isiah has had his checkbook snatched away (kinda like a wife who spends too much money on shoes and manicures...kinda pathetic, no?), who's out there making outlandish offers? I hope for the Nuggest sake he bounces back from that torn ACL and they find a taker for K-Mart. Personally? I'm not seeing it...is Nene bringing a ring to the Rockies?

Jason Terry re-ups with the Mavs. So Jason Terry gets 10 mil less than Nene - 50 mil over 6 years. But JET is a proven player who took your team to the Finals. I like where your heads at, Dallas. Smart move. Man's entering his prime, he's clutch, and he's the only person who can make a Cheryl Miller interview bearable. Who woulda thought he'd be the best player off of Arizona's national championship team? (I had my money on AJ Bramlet.)

Speedy decides to spend four years in priso...er, the ATL. Hey, the Hawks have a PG! He's not going to be anAll Star or anything, but the fact that they got someone that good to sign there is a borderline miracle. Honestly, would you want to play there? The courts are telling them who they can sign for the love of Dominique. But really...this really, really helps, I think. Speedy at the 1, Joe Johnson at the 2, and then a bunch of 6-7, 6-9 types in the front court. Too bad they drafted Sheldon. Baby steps, Atlanta...baby steps.

Austin Croshere for Marquie Daniels. Straight up. Seriously - this happened. If this happened in a fantasy league, it would be vetoed instantly. I guess I see where Dallas is coming from...but not really. Yea, Daniels didnt play that much and was making a decent chunk of change, but you just gave him away - and he's good. You coulda gotten more, fellas. Croshere is an absolute waste. He'll never play, ever. Morons. Indiana has to be stoked. They're pretty damn athletic now, plus they don't have Croshere, who just seems like he'd be annoying as hell and a big dork. Although Daniels looks like a hammerhead, so it might be a wash. Whatever...the Mavs screwed up.

Indiana is a better team this year. Now with Daniels and Danny Granger, Year 2 and Stephen Jackson, that's a pretty nice back court, providing Anthony Johnson plays like he did agaisnt the Nets in the first round. JO on the block...maybe Harrington coming in? Say what you will about Jermaine O'Neal, but he's have a bona fide go to guy. I'd love to have him on my team (actually, I'd love to have a team...that would be pretty neat, wouldn't it?) and he's going to have a huge year this year. Mark my words.

Mike James signs with the T-Pups. Atta boy, McHale! Now this is a playoff team! Actually, this team still sucks, but KG had better get it in the playoffs. An 8 seed, something. They are set at the 1 with James and Foy. KG needs to keep the legelally insane Ricky Davis in line and Eddie Griffin's hands out of his pants (Seriously, KG, tell him about the groupies. Be a leader, for God's sake.) and this team has some serious sleeper potential. Love the Mike James signing, though; can't say enough about it.

Clippers land Mr. Hot Fingers. I think Donald Sterling is getting the hang of this thing! You lose a shooter...you replace him. Really a good job. After they lost Radmonovich, they signed a better version of him. Tim Thomas could start for them. He's better than Cuttino is. Really. As long as his head stays on straight (no promises, though) this is a GREAT signing. And ifhe stops doing that "Oh, my fingers are so hot! I better blow them off!" routine, all the better. Maybe he can show Daniel Ewing how to be taller, too.

Honestly, Tim Thomas could get the Clippers to the Conference Finals, if not to the Finals. Yea, Phoenix gets Amare back, but will he be there all year? And the same player he was? Plus, Nash is a year older...Something to think about.

The Bulls steal Big Ben away from the Pistons. The 'fro of the Pistons stays in-conference. HAHA. God, I can't wait to watch the Bulls run all over the Pistons. Flip Saunders is getting fired this year. He'll maintain that the Pistons can play offense with everyone else, which is a very, very bad idea. How are they going to score? Billups shooting pull up 3's? Rip running off screens? Sheed doing whatever the hell he wants? Nope. They started slacking on D and Big Ben covered there asses all year. Unless they commit to the defensive end, they are toast. Has a team ever gone from 4 All Stars one year to none the next?

Oh yea, the Bulls got better. They still can't win a title with that team. They need a stud. Although I guess we said the same thing about the Pistons, and they won...but that was before the offensive rule changes. They need someone they can just throw the ball to - whether it be on the wing or the block - and just get a duece or a trip to the FT line. The Final Four last year all had at least one of those guys. Until they get one, they're just a team to be scared as hell of.

The Class of '03 is smart. Well, Bronny is the smartest. They're all following his lead. But they are setting themselves up for some big paydays. And the more I think about it, they aren't in the best situations. Melo's team just signed Nene for 10 mil a year. The Heat, minus Shaq, are a freakin' trainwreck. Once he's gone, I don't think I'd wanna be there either. And yea, the Raps are making an effort...but they drafted a girl with their first pick. And one wrong fall, and their PG is permanently retired. So Bosh isn't safe, either, although he's the lone one of the quartet not to copy LeBron. Yet. Just goes to show you: LeBron's always one step ahead of the game.

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