Quick Thoughts

1.    Dream Team?: Well the FIBA Americas tourney has come and went and, as anticipated, the United States dominated the proceedings.  Of course, the margin of error is so slim in these international proceedings that you can’t assume a win in the 2008 Olympics.  Still, the team did seem to have a nice balance to it.  As to whether this team could take the original 1992 squad, I’m agnostic on the subject.  What I am more interested in is how a coach sorts out these types of All-Star teams and allots playing time, shots, etc.  So here’s a look at the some of leaders from each pro international team since 1992:

1992 Olympics (8-0, won gold medal)

Leading Scorer: Charles Barkley, 18.0 ppg

Leading Rebounder: Patrick Ewing and Karl Malone, 5.3 rpg

Leading Assister: Scottie Pippen, 5.9 apg

Leading Blocker: Patrick Ewing, 1.9 bpg

No-Points Guy: John Stockton, 2.8 ppg

1994 FIBA Tourney (8-0, won gold medal)

Leading Scorer: Shaquille O’Neal, 18.0 ppg

Leading Rebounder: Shaquille O’Neal, 8.5 rpg

Leading Assister: Kevin Johnson, 3.9 apg

Leading Blocker: Shaquille O’Neal, 1.9 bpg

No-Points Guy: Steve Smith, 3.0 ppg

1996 Olympics (8-0, won gold medal)

Leading Scorer: Charles Barkley, 12.4 ppg

Leading Rebounder: Charles Barkley, 6.6 rpg

Leading Assister: Gary Payton, 4.5 apg

Leading Blocker: Shaquille O’Neal, 1.0 bpg

No-Points Guy: John Stockton, 3.8 ppg

1999 FIBA Americas Qualifier (10-0, won gold medal)

Leading Scorer: Gary Payton 16.0 ppg

Leading Rebounder: Tim Duncan, 9.1 rpg

Leading Assister: Jason Kidd, 6.8 apg

Leading Blocker: Tim Duncan, 2.4 bpg

No-Points Guy: Elton Brand, 3.0 ppg

2000 Olympics (8-0, won gold medal)

Leading Scorer: Vince Carter, 14.8 ppg

Leading Rebounder: Kevin Garnett, 9.1 rpg

Leading Assister: Jason Kidd, 4.4 apg

Leading Blocker: Alonzo Mourning, 2.3 bpg

No-Points Guy: Anfernee Hardaway and Gary Payton, 5.5 ppg

2002 FIBA Tourney (6-3, sixth place)

Leading Scorer: Paul Pierce, 19.8 ppg

Leading Rebounder: Ben Wallace, 6.8 rpg

Leading Assister: Andre Miller, 4.1 apg

Leading Blocker: Ben Wallace, 1.7 bpg

No-Points Guy: Jay Williams, 3.9 ppg

2003 FIBA Americas Qualifier (10-0, won gold medal)

Leading Scorer: Tim Duncan, 15.6 ppg

Leading Rebounder: Tim Duncan, 8.0 rpg

Leading Assister: Jason Kidd, 5.0 apg

Leading Blocker: Tim Duncan, 1.4 bpg

No-Points Guy: Jason Kidd, 3.4 ppg

2004 Olympics (5-3, won bronze medal)

Leading Scorer: Allen Iverson, 13.8 ppg

Leading Rebounder: Tim Duncan, 9.1 rpg

Leading Assister: Stephon Marbury, 3.4 apg

Leading Blocker: Tim Duncan, 1.3 bpg

No-Points Guy: Emeka Okafor 0.0 ppg in 2 games (honorable mention to Carmelo Anthony at 2.4 ppg).

2006 FIBA Tourney (8-1, won bronze medal)

Leading Scorer: Carmelo Anthony, 19.9 ppg

Leading Rebounder: LeBron James, 4.8 rpg

Leading Assister: Chris Paul, 4.9 apg

Leading Blocker: Dwight Howard, 1.3 bpg

No-Points Guy: Antawn Jamison, 3.6 ppg

2007 FIBA Americas Qualifier (10-0, won gold medal)

Leading Scorer: Carmelo Anthony, 21.2 ppg

Leading Rebounder: Dwight Howard, 5.3 rpg

Leading Assister: LeBron James, 4.7 apg

Leading Blocker: Dwight Howard, 1.8 bpg

No-Points Guy: Jason Kidd, 1.8 ppg

Some interesting notes:

-Carmelo has set the scoring record for the Team USA two summers in a row.  Perhaps, he is suited nicely to the international game.

-Kidd also set the record for least points in the non-Emeka Okafor division this summer at 1.8 ppg.  Kidd is a fascinating international player.  He totally refuses to shoot and looks to pass and pass.  Here is Kidd’s points versus assists in each international competition:

2007: 18 points, 46 assists

2003: 34 points, 50 assists

2000: 48 points, 35 assists

1999: 74 points, 68 assists

It’s tough to get blocks in the up-and-down international game.  Duncan has the record with Zo just behind in 2000.

-The qualifying tournaments are not quite as tough as the Olympics and FIBA Tourneys, which include the best teams in all of the world, not just this hemisphere.  So it’s fair to take the 1999, 2003, and 2007 stats with a bit of a grain of salt.

2.  Phil’s In: In other recent news, the Basketball Hall of Fame elected Phil Jackson last week.  There is something surreal about inducting a coach while he still active.  I remember the Football Hall of Fame and the Baseball Hall of Fame don’t induct active coaches.  In fact, the Football Hall’s board once delayed inducting Bill Parcells because they didn’t believe he wouldn’t coach again.  For better or worse, the Basketball Hall of Fame does things a little differently.  There has been much criticism that the Hoops Hall has actually ignored pro coaches.  In fact, of the 80 coaches in the Hoops Hall, there are only about 10 pro coaches and tons of college coaches.  The standard for college coaches does not seem to be particularly stringent and a lot lifers who weren’t the best in the profession are in.  The standard from pro coaches, however, are much tougher.

The pro list is compromised pretty much big winners like Auerbach, Larry Brown, Red Holzman, John Kundla, Chuck Daly, Bill Sharman, and Alex Hannum.  There are three retired coaches who have pretty good arguments based upon longevity.  Dick Motta, Bill Fitch, and Cotton Fitzsimmons were three NBA lifers who coached tons of different teams and have made nearly every one a contender.  Fitch and Motta have a problem in that they have both won nearly 1,000 games, which is near the career win total, but are both well under .500 for their careers (Fitch is 944-1,106 and Motta is 935-1,017).

Fitch was successful everywhere he went but went to some really bad teams like the expansion Cavs, the early 1990s Nets, and the late 1990s Clippers.  Still, every franchise he ever coached was able to make playoff appearances and was usually better off when left then when he got there but he accrued tons of losses in developing teams (the Nets, Clippers, and the expansion Cavs).  Fitch was also known to be a tough guy who wears out his welcome with his hard edged style.  He was not loved in Boston when they let him go after the 1982-83, losing his best chance at a dynasty.  Instead, K.C. Jones got credit for the best part of the Larry Bird-Celtics’ run.  Fitch also was probably too hard on sensitive rookie Ralph Sampson in Houston and didn’t reach rookie Derrick Coleman very well either (though neither clash was necessarily Fitch’s fault).  My favorite Fitch story came in 1994, when his first two games as Clippers coach were in Japan.  Predictably, the Clipps were smoked by a better Portland team by a total of 38 points in the two games.  Fitch’s response was to suggest that he leave his squad to play in the Japanese League.  In the end, Fitch was a nomad who built teams well anywhere he went, very similar to Larry Brown (and he was just as nuts too).

Motta’s career parallels Fitch’s like a mirror. Motta started out with the a weak expansion Bulls team and turned them into a contender in the 1970s.  He then went to the Bullets and re-established them as a contender, winning one title and losing in the NBA Finals the next year (1978 and 1979).  After the Bullets, Motta turned around the expansion Mavs and took them to the Conference Finals in 1988.  After that, things got rough for Motta.  He took a deadend job with the Kings in the late 1980s and returned to a weak Mavs team in the mid-1990s (though he did succeed in improving them a bit) before ending up as the interim coach on a terrible Nuggets team in 1996-97.  Motta was 140 games under .500 in that final five season stretch but it shouldn’t take away from how good a coach he was when he had the horses.

Fitzsimmons was another coaching nomad with a rep for turning around teams.  He had a much better record than Fitch or Motta (832-775) and was relatively successful with six different franchises.  Fitzsimmons’ problem is that he never won a title of even made an NBA Finals.  He only made three real playoff runs too.  Once he had a fluke run with the 1980-81 Kings who were 40-42 but made the Conference Finals and again with the Suns in 1988-89 and 1989-90.  He is probably the weakest of these three candidates but he is at least as worthy as several coaches already in the Hall.

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