1. We Got Gold…Yay?: The evolution of the United States view on international basketball competition has drastically changed over the years. In the late 1980s, the fact that our collegians couldn’t guarantee a gold medal bothered the U.S. committee enough to authorize the use of pros by 1992. After a few years of success with NBAers, the world caught up enough to beat the U.S. pros in the early 2000s. Now the U.S. committee has “professionalized” the whole process, having a regular coach and choosing players strategically enough that the gold medals are rolling again. The present mood towards the U.S. team, however, is slightly more than apathetic. It’s not that the U.S. team didn’t accomplish something significant in winnings its first FIBA World Championship since 1994 but that certain truths have become clear.
The most obvious one is that while the U.S. has the best players but some other countries have some serious talent sufficient to beat the U.S. team on any given day in international competition. The games are shorter, the three-point line is closer, and the round robin format make upsets more likely too. The risk of losses have been tangible since 1996. Only recently, however, have NBA fans come to accept this fact as the number of international players who have starred in the NBA has grown. But this isn’t just about stars. There are a lot of good foreign role players now. There are plenty of Yi Jianlians, Jose Calderons, Marc Gasols, who range from acceptable NBAers to pretty good starters all around international competition.
On some level, the belief that some have in some inherent American basketball exceptionalism has made this truth harder to embrace. Still, now the U.S. teams face some serious threats in two or three games each tournament, which has helped ratchet expectations closer to reality, namely that the U.S. have to work to get a gold medal. Now that this fact has been embraced more, the U.S. has focused in maximizing its advantages (athleticism and depth) without adding the types of players who really don’t translate as well in this context (high volume/low efficiency scorers). The larger lesson is that humans, with proper training and planning, are as likely to be good at basketball anywhere in the world. Rooting for your country is fun but, in the real world, rooting for a good basketball game to watch really is the best result for fans. Continue reading FIBA Tournament Post Script…
7/15 Matched offer tendered to J.J. Reddick
8/4 Re-signed Jason Williams
I was a little surprised to see Orlando bring back Williams after previously giving Chris Duhon a moderately generous four-year deal. But, as we noted last time, Williams is probably a better short term bet and he has agreed to a one-year contract. The worst that could happen is that Duhon or Williams falls to third string, neither of which is too big a deal. Reddick’s return is also potentially a bit of an overpay (three years and $20 million) but he showed marked improvement last year and the Magic were good enough that they should spend a little extra to keep their best shooter.
7/21 Signed Tony Battie
8/12 Named Rod Thorn team president
The Thorn situation is quite weird for many reasons. Let’s count the ways:
-By all public accounts, Mikhail Prokhorov and the Nets really wanted to keep Thorn. Also, the Nets were finally willing to spend money after previous ownership had forced Thorn to cut payroll for several years. Thorn’s stated reason for leaving Jersey was that “it was just time.” It’s possible that Thorn had wandering eyes after a decade in New Jersey but more likely, he saw a better opportunity or he believed that the Nets situation would get messy for some reason or he felt that Prorkhorov really didn’t want him around. Continue reading Transactions 7/14-8/16 Part 3…