NOlympics? Yes!

2 10 2009

Chicago lost its Olympic bid for the 2016 Summer Games. I, for one, am relieved. Excerpt from an excellent piece at the East Coast Bias:

To prepare Chicago, Mayor Daley would have needed to remove a number of poor communities from the south side, relocating them outside of the county, or far west within the city. There would have been cost overruns, as previously stated, cutbacks on services for current residents, the creation of structures at a high cost (in a time of fluctuating value) that will NOT be used after the Olympic event. It’s the kind of production that loves a blowhard that promises big things and scrambles to deliver. It’s the kind of production that would be better served by a more lax news media, easily-manipulated fiscal policy, and disenfranchised/ easy to move residents.

I would also add that although Mayor Daley guaranteed that no city tax money would fund the infrastructure changes or any other Olympic expense, in an effort to step to the plate, the Chicago City Council voted unanimously to cover any financial shortfalls were it to win the Olympic bid.

The City Council had already promised $500 million to the cause, not to mention the other $50 million used just to prepare for the bid.

I realize that most Chicago residents don’t know where the “poor people near UIC, the United Center or McCormick Place” went.  They just know that it’s nice and clean now and they go on their merry way.  It doesn’t really cross their minds that there are people hurting in this city.

I would love to see this zeal for an Olympic Games diverted to fixing the problems of this city.  Put it towards Chicago Public Schools, perhaps?

The Man Who Played

5 09 2008

During the NBA playoffs, the 6’5″ guard injured his ankle during his San Antonio Spurs’ loss to the Phoenix Suns.  The nagging injury hampered the normally dynamic player, limiting his effectiveness as the Spurs X-factor.    His game visibly flattened and San Antonio’s playoffs hopes floated down the river.

Manu took his bum ankle and flew across the world to represent his country.

Scorning his NBA coach, Manu Ginobili went to Beijing this summer and played for Argentinian Men’s Basketball Team.  Manu was their captain, their leading scorer and their flag-bearer for the opening ceremonies.

So coming off a first-round loss and a troubling injury, he felt well enough to strap up the sneakers and test the Chinese hardwood.  Unfortunately, he re-injured that left ankle during an elimination game against the US team.

A few days ago, Manu went to Los Angeles and had surgery on his left heel and ankle.  The guy’s going to be on crutches for three weeks plus two or three months of rehab. 

Meanwhile, the San Antonio Spurs have delayed negotiations to extend Manu’s contract.  Manu’s agent says that “[they] want to see how [Manu] recovers from the surgery.” 

I wasn’t surprised to come across anger towards Manu for playing in the Olympics.  But I was surprised to see him being called selfish.  Manu Ginobili?  Selfish?

I suppose he takes his fair share of shots but really?  Selfish?  I’ll need that explained to me further.

The guy left Europe where he was making bank to join the Spurs, where he was the seventh or eighth guy on the roster.  Keep in mind that Manu was getting bites from other NBA teams where he could start and get a bigger slice of cheese.

He’s one of the most productive guards in the league and he’s ceded his starter status to Mike Finley for the good of the Spurs organization.  The man has the skills to demand the ball on every possession but he plays the team game.  And he’s being called selfish?

Manu is coming off a disappointing NBA finish where he could have taken it easy, rested his old body and lined up a good contract (see: Steve Nash).  Instead, he goes and plays hard for his country.  Selfish?  Really?

Manu doesn’t strike me as a stupid man.  If he were, he’d probably parlay his basketball clout into a maximum contract for a bad team.  So you have to think that his participation in the Olympics was highly calculated.

On one hand, he can play it safe and stay home.  He effectively chooses the San Antonio Spurs over Argentina’s national team.  It also puts him in good shape, contractually, as he is lowering his risk of aggravating his ankle.

On the other hand, he can play in the Olympics.  He effectively chooses the Argentinian team over the Spurs.  He has an opportunity to win a gold medal and gets to represent his country.

In terms of gain, the first option benefits his income while the second option benefits his nationalistic feelings.  So he can be seen as selfish that way.  He is chooses one constituency (Argentina) over another (Spurs fans).  Naturally, Spurs fans are miffed and confused by his measured gamble.

Another point to note is that most European teams hold the FIBA World Championships in higher regard than the Olympic gold medal.  This thought is paralleled by futbol’s World Cup having precedence over the Olympic soccer championship.  So why would Manu trade his NBA clout for a lesser tournament’s championship?

What do you think?  What would you have done and why did Manu do it?  Is it selfishness?

USA Demolishes Argentina

22 08 2008

In my best Bill Walton impression…

If ever there was a Basketball Dictionary, a picture of this version of the Dream Team would appear next to the definition of “Excellence.”  It would also appear next to the definition of “Teamwork,” “Hustle,” “Defense,” “Incredible,” “Domination” and “Bombastic.”

And by “bombastic,” I mean that the Red, White and Blue has just dropped a bomb on Argentina.  No, this was not a nuclear bomb but it was a different kind of bomb.  A bomb of goodness that has wakened the rest of the world and given them an envelope that contained an invitation to see how basketball should be played.  RSVP at your own risk, World.

The stirring giant that is the United States Basketball Program has finally emerged from its slumber.  Manu Ginobili, a bit player in the NBA, was just man-handled by Kobe Bryant.  Ginobili has a lot of heart but he just does not possess the skill nor basketball prowess of a Kobe Bryant.

Bryant is quite possibly the best living creature in the solar system.  Jason Kidd is the best leader in the history of Western civilization.  And LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony were like streaking asteroids approaching the planet Argentina.  They’re just waiting to cripple it and begin a new Ice Age.  An age where USA rules supreme once again.

Their style is impetuous.  Their defense: impregnable.  And they are just ferocious.

Dwight Howard was like a man among boys walking around the playground and kicking Luis Scola and Fabricio Oberto off of the swings.  I can see it now: the parents come to defend Scola and Oberto until they realize that it is Dwight Howard.  And then they pay homage.  Throw it down, big man.  Throw it down!

Coach K is the greatest coach of all time.  His style of play has revolutionized the world of basketball.  Mike D’Antoni, Jim Boeiheim, Nate McMillan, and all of the assistant coaches should take a page out of this great one’s play book.  He is the epitome of class and the American way.

And now they have the Spanish team between them and their manifest destiny.  The gold medal is within reach.  It’s unfortunate that the Spanish team will only serve as a pedestal for this unbeatable, unbelievable, ubiquitous Team USA.  Soon, they will take the title of “Greatest Team of All Time.  Ever.”

… and end Bill Walton impression.

Fear the Zone

13 08 2008
Zone?  No habla espagnol.

Zone? No habla espagnol.

American basketball players have been branded as arrogant, hot-dogging individuals masquerading as a team. 

You’ve heard of LeBron James’ “absolutely” answer to whether they will win gold.  There have been similar proclamations from Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade. 

It’s interesting that they’re so confident seeing as though they were part of the 2004 National Team that rode USA Basketball’s name through the mud.

Arrogance?  I smell it.  But I guess bad habits are hard to break. 

But what of Team USA’s coaches?  Are they as arrogant as their players seem to be?

On the eve of the much-anticipated USA-Greece Olympic basketball game, I’ve found this excerpt from a Chris Sheridan article to be very telling:

“Interestingly, Krzyzewski said the Americans’ game plan going in will not include much use of a traditional 2-3 zone unless the man-to-man defense proves ineffective. That’s particularly intriguing given Greece’s difficulty scoring against a traditional zone, something the American coaching staff noticed as it was on hand to scout Tuesday’s Greece-Germany game.

” ‘If I tell my guys we’re going to play a certain amount of zone, it’s almost like saying our man-to-man is not good defense. Just psychologically,’ Krzyzewski said Wednesday in discussing his tactical scheme with 

But if they’re no good against the zone, shouldn’t you play zone? 

‘Well, no,’ Coach K said. ‘They may not be good against our man, and over the years, the championship teams I’ve had have made teams adjust to them. And if you’re constantly adjusting to who you play, then you’ve got to be careful you never know who you are. But again, zone is part of our repertoire, and I’m not saying we’re not going to use it, I’m just saying I don’t know how many minutes we’ll use it.’ “

“It’s almost like… our man-to-man defense is not [good enough]?”  Are you kidding me?  Clearly, it isn’t.  Clearly. 

For an example, please see the first two Olympic games featuring the American team.  Full-court to 3/4-court pressure masqueraded as their supposed tough man-to-man defense.  When they got into the half-court, their defense was putrid.  A couple nice, highlight reel weak-side blocks can’t erase actual sloppy defense.

Coach K is learning that coaching a group of high-powered NBA professionals has a lot of “ego and chemistry management” in the job description.  But is it worth it to be stubborn about applying a principle that is clearly effective against the Grecian National Team?

Does Coach K think that he’s Dorian Gray?  Where’s your portrait at, man?

Playing a 2-3 is not the equivalent of selling out the American dream.  Uncle Sam’s not going to swing out of the rafters and choke you with Old Glory, Coach K.

And regarding the “if you’re constantly adjusting to who you play, you never know who you are” gem, I think it’s easy for the coach of a top flight NCAA program to say that.  Year after year, his teams are injected with blue chip, 5-star talent.

As much as people like to talk about American dominance in basketball, this quote is very telling.  If USA plays a zone, they won’t be “playing down” to Greece. 

If Duke plays Appalachian State or Campbell and re-vamps their offensive sets, I can see how that is a needless concession to a supposedly inferior athletic talent.

But this isn’t some ACC vs. Southern/A-Sun exhibition.  This is an Olympic game against a team that spanked them in 2004. 

If Coach K is truly worried that playing zone will deteriorate the American team psychologically while conceding that the Greeks are better, he is sorely wrong.

The coaching staff’s talk about respecting their opponent is all clearly lip service.  They’re setting themselves up for failure.

Play zone.

Favoritism in the American Game

4 08 2008
Will they be all smiles when it gets close?

Will they be all smiles when it gets close?

The USA’s Men’s Basketball Team is the consensus pick for gold in the Beijing Olympics.

Although their interior play and defense are subject, the Americans are the most talented and athletic team in the field.  They have been on cruise control through the pre-Olympic matches; no one has sufficiently challenged them.

If they dominate the Olympic Games with their style, no one in the field can catch them.  It’ll be like if Tim Allen challenged Tyson Gay in a 100 meter sprint.

But what happens if the American team is challenged?  If Spain drubs them early, how will they respond?  If Manu and the Argentinians stage a late-game comeback, can the Americans keep their composure?

Officiating will be a big factor in highly-contested games.  I’m not talking about Tim Donaghy; it’s the exact opposite, actually.

Every player on the American team is a stand-out in the NBA.  Since the NBA is more about entertainment than keeping to the fundamentals of the game, the NBA stand-outs get a very long leash.

In FIBA play, Deron Williams will be called for palming the ball.  Chris Paul will be called for his sneaky fouls.  LeBron James will be called for charging.  And on the list goes…

FIBA officials aren’t going to be worried about handing out the “superstars” calls.  But the favoritism for American players should be kept at a low; like the amount of food-stamps given out during the Republican National Convention.

Sure, LeBron James is a recognizable basketball figure internationally.  But why would an Angolan referee let James play football simply because the NBA and Nike have expended billions in marketing?

How the Americans respond to more objective officiating is up for debate.

During the USA-Russia game, Andrei Kirilenko was visibly frustrated with the officiating.  However, Fran Frischella never pointed out when LeBron or Dwyane Wade would complain about getting a charging or walking call.  Carmelo Anthony was every bit as moody as AK-47 during the first half and no one mentioned that.

I’m not trying to assert that the USA basketball team is a bunch of whiners but it is odd that the European-born NBA players are stereotyped as the complainers.  Why doesn’t the brush come back the other way?

Will the American team shoot themselves in the foot during a close game?