Mailvox: overrated NBA

The Baseball Savant refuses to limit himself to MLB:

To say that the USA didn’t medal is an indictment of something is preposterous. You are talking about a US team that didn’t feature Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Elton Brand, Jermaine O’Neal, Ron Artest, Vince Carter, Richard Hamilton, Gilbert Arenus, Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups or Tracy McGrady. To say the 2004 Olympic Team is a representation of USA Basketball is insane at the highest level. Not only that, but you also have to factor in the notion that this team was made up primarily of players coming out of the NBA season that practiced a week before the season against foreign teams playing with each other forever is nuts.

The European players that made it to the NBA are great no doubt, but would you take Yao over Shaq? [Vox – No] Dirk over Tim or Kevin? [Yes, right now] Nash over Kidd? [No] Diaw over Vinsanity? [Seven days a week and twice on TNT] I’m not saying the US shouldn’t have won the Gold Medal. They should have, but making a blanket statement about the NBA is nuts.

I think when the Dream Team 1 featured guys like Bird, Jordan, Magic, Malone, Stockton, etc. we showed the world just how amazing our basketball can be. To say that a team full of American guys couldn’t medal, while true in fact, is nuts.

It’s like saying Trent Dilfer is better than Peyton Manning because he’s wearing a ring.

First, I didn’t say they couldn’t medal, I said they DIDN’T medal, which was an obvious mistake since they took the bronze. (I was thinking of the 2002 World Championships when they finished sixth.) To argue that Shaq, KG and Kidd weren’t at the Olympics is somewhat disingenous, considering that Tim Duncan, AI, Shaun Marion, Lebron, Carmelo, Dwayne Wade and Carmelo were all there. Considering that neither Kidd nor KG have won anything in the NBA and that Shaq commits an offensive foul every time he touches the ball, I don’t think it’s possible to argue that the USA has maintained the basketball supremacy it once possessed.

Basketball is a team game, but the NBA variant is more of a two-man game. The Detroit Pistons have demonstrated that the team concept can still work there, but it’s interesting to note that they have had success without the Superstar+1 format that has been considered necessary since the end of the Bird-Magic era and with a team comprised mostly of cast-offs from other teams. Two of those Pistons you mentioned above weren’t even invited to join that Olympic squad because they weren’t considered good enough.

There is every indication that merely collecting the best players is no way to build a team. Real Madrid tried that with its galacticos strategy, but despite having half of the FIFA European Footballers of the Year of the last decade playing for them – Zidane, Figo, Beckham, Ronaldo, Owen – they’ve only won two of the last eight La Liga titles.

Sure, there were other problems, such as Larry Brown being spectacularly ill-suited to coach a team of favorites, especially a team with three young stars-in-the-making. But to deny that nations such as Argentina, Lithuania and Italy have made serious steps towards catching up with the USA in basketball is as silly as those Europeans who still think of the US national team as an easy opponent in the World Cup.

(That being said, Italy, Ghana and the Czech Republic is a tough, tough draw. Group A or Group B would have much easier, especially now that Wayne Rooney is out.)