Posted on Sun, Sep. 03, 2006email thisprint thisreprint or license this
NBA should get off the world stage
By JASON WHITLOCK
The Kansas City Star
You go ahead and play the ďif-so-and-so-was-on-the-teamĒ game. Iíll deal with the truth of whatís wrong with USA Basketball in international competition.
We reward the individual. International competition rewards the team.
Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Shaquille OíNeal canít fix our Olympic basketball team. They might stop the bleeding and get us a close victory in the gold-medal game.
But if weíre truly interested in fixing the problem ó and we should be after Greece eliminated Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Coach K from the latest world championships ó we need to dramatically change our approach to international competition.
We need to build and pay for a year-round team. Pay 10 guys $500,000 a year to travel the globe practicing and playing together and sprinkle in three or four NBA superstars for major international competitions.
The Dream Team era is over. Dream Teams donít play defense. Dream Teams donít set screens or call out screens consistently. Dream Teams pout about practice and playing time.
Dream Teams have no clue about stopping the pick-and-roll and preventing a perimeter player from getting the ball in his sweet spot. For most NBA players defense begins when the player heís guarding touches the ball, and offense begins when the ball reaches his hands.
A group of NBA players will never again dominate international competition. The officiating is too different, in some cases too fair. You canít take three steps without dribbling. There are no phantom superstar calls.
OK, let me write something insightful.
David Stern and NBA players should walk away now before they do any more damage to the NBA brand.
The NBA is supposed to play the best basketball in the world. Every time one of these Dream Teams gets smacked by a group of unknowns the myth of NBA supremacy takes another blow. Itís bad for business. It creates more fan animosity for a league recovering from an image crisis.
A couple of months ago, Wade was basking in the glow of being hailed as the next Michael Jordan. Heíd led the Miami Heat to a come-from-behind victory over the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA finals. Heíd position himself to challenge LeBron as Americaís new No. 1 shoe pitchmen.
Jordan didnít lose when he led a Dream Team. The Wade comparisons to Jordan seem really silly now.
In fact, Kobe Bryant enhanced his image by sitting out of this tournament. The conventional wisdom now is that this team needed Kobe, the ďbest player in basketball.Ē If Kobe joins this team later and helps it squeak to an Olympic gold medal in three years, heíll receive most of the credit. Not Wade. Not LeBron. Not Carmelo.
If Iím an NBA agent looking out for the best interest of my client, I tell him to stay out of international competition. Itís not worth the risk. Itís not worth the risk for the whole league.
When youíre a professional league, you donít want your customers believing thereís a superior brand of basketball being played somewhere else. If the champion of the Canadian Football League whipped the NFL champ ó even playing CFL rules ó that would damage the NFL.
I enjoy the NBA. But itís reached the point now where Iíd really like to see the NBA adopt international rules and an international style of officiating. The international game, with its wider lane and blind officiating, seems to promote team play. Iíve seen enough dunks and uncalled traveling violations to last a lifetime.
Iím ready for something new, something a bit less predictable.
To reach Jason Whitlock, call (816) 234-4869 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.