Friday, February 17, 2006


A Dark Day

Come closer children, and gather round, as I tell you the sordid story of a group of men, assembled for the noble purpose of representing their country in athletic competition. It was supposed to be a cakewalk. It proved to be a struggle. It was supposed to be no contest when the best athletes in the world took the court. It was, they didn't have a chance. Most of all, it was supposed to be a coronation; a return to dominance for a team whose foundation had been shaken at the 2003 Worlds, on its home turf, no less. It turned into a debacle.

Let's take a look at the cast and crew that made this bloated melodrama on the hardwood possible. For lack of a better term, we'll call them...

(In alphabetical order)

Carmelo Anthony
Carlos Boozer
Tim Duncan
Allen Iverson
LeBron James
Richard Jefferson
Stephon Marbury
Shawn Marion
Lamar Odom
Emeka Okafor
Amare Stoudemire
Dwayne Wade

Looks like quite the dirty dozen right there, but this group wouldn't be complete without a coach. A guy that could use the talents of the team to their fullest and get the most out of them. A real players coach, someone the troops could rally around. A coach who could mix egos but also not take any BS when it came time to get down to business. They could have had anyone, but they took Larry Brown.

I'd have preferred Pat Summitt.

You take a look at that lineup, and a few things immediately pop out at you. The first thing that stands out is that there is not a true point guard among those men. Steph Marbury is a scorer, nothing else, and Dwayne Wade is the same way. The second thing that forces its way into your consciousness is that there are no pure outside shooters on the squad. The third, and easily most important aspect of the team that announces its presence, however, is the distinct lack of role players anywhere on the roster.

If I'm Larry Brown, here's what I do when I make my lineup: I've got the most unselfish superstar playing the game today in LeBron James. I make him my point guard and tell him to focus on making plays, everyone else will take care of the scoring. I let him share the ballhandling duties with Lamar Odom, to whom I give the same message. Shawn Marion gets tossed on the court as a power forward. Undersized, you say? Nonsense, he was arguably the best defender on that team, and his running the court would have gotten the U.S. numerous easy transition hoops. I'd throw Tim Duncan out there, as he is the best fundamental player in the game and by far the best big man in the world.

But here's the key: Instead of burying him on the bench, which is what actually happened, I tell my proud veterans like A.I. and Marbury to swallow their pride and play reduced minutes, because the only choice for this team at the swing position is Carmelo Anthony, arguably the best pure scorer on the team. A motivated Melo, playing big minutes alongside LeBron and crew, would have lit it up for his country. It doesn't matter that he wasnt a terrific outside shooter--he had then and still has to this day a terrific midrange game. Melo would have lit it up and really stepped his game up, not pouted like he did for Larry B.

The rest of the veterans would have taken their roles in stride. Put A.I. on the court with Marbury and A.I. would have swallowed his pride and deferred to Marbury because there was no way the inverse would have happened. To that end, Marbury shouldn't have been on this team, period. He can blather on and on about how he averages 20 and 8 a game for his career, but the fact is is that he's one of the worst "good" players in league history.

Stoudemire would have done exactly what he was supposed to do, that being grab rebounds and finish easy buckets inside, and he would have done it well. Wade would have been the microwave off the bench if he'd been called upon to perform such a role. Okafor, Boozer, and Jefferson would have played the roles of defender, rebounder, and "athlete" exactly as they should have. This wasn't the most well-thought out assemblage of players representing the country, but they still could have, and probably should have, won the gold easily. Instead, this is what happened, as if you needed to be reminded.

First off, Larry Brown kept with his moronic tradition and tried to play only his "established" veteran guys. No matter that his usual lineup of Marbury, Iverson, Duncan, Jefferson, and Marion never really meshed, the vets were in there, playing the key minutes. I guess Larry couldn't take a hint after they got busted by Puerto Rico (PUERTO RICO) by 19. He buried his two best players on the bench for no other reason but the fact that they were young guys, and he never came close to finding the right blend of chemistry. What he was left with was a bunch of guys that didn't care and wanted to go home. Iverson tried his best, but he was working with the burden of "Starbury" looming near him, wanting top billing for himself.

In its most generic form, a team is described as a group of people assembled to accomplish a certain goal. In sports, anyone can tell you that a team is a cohesive group that likes each other, and is willing to do anything to accomplish the ultimate goal. Not only that, but the team needs a coach that is ready, willing, and able to get the most out of them, not only for their own good, but in this case, for the good of their country. Larry Brown wasn't that man, and he never will be.

The United States never had a team. Their definition never got past "a group of people."

Coming soon: The 2006 team, and what to do with them.

Mauler, (or Mueller, if you will),

I gotta hand it to you. Nice blog. It is coherent, quite unlike my own. Solid. Nice work.
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