Posterized in Spanish.... Just like 1992..."Hey Ma...get a picture of me and the American!"
If basketball were war, we'd be giving Argentina the US Pacific coast up to Cascadia. It sucks. It was a buzzkill that made a death in the family look like a fat snout full of cocaine. In it's wake, two important questions emerge:
- Is US basketball superiority a myth?
- What can be done to keep us from getting spanked like newborns at the Olympics?
The first question can't be answered by pointing to Manu Ginobili's new neckpiece. I mean, take that Argentina team and put them in the NBA. 20 wins, maybe? Hell, send their best 11 to Charlotte, and teach Okafor some Spanish. They'll get smoked like a Garcia....
This loss of stature has spawned some ugly rumors. The first one is that certain Dream Teamers are being investigated in relation to a possible fix. A prominent offshore betting facility has been implicated. I'd hate to slander anyone, but if you are on a return flight from Grenada and you meet a "Phil Iverson"....you might want to rifle through his carry-on luggage if he falls asleep...he just may have some of Uncle Al's new money.
The even better rumor involves a friendly pre-semifinal bet between Spurs Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan. Argentina's victory will force Duncan to wear pantyhose for the Spurs' first regular season game. He'd better be the Big Stoic.
US basketball has fallen this far. The next batch we send to the Big O may beat the rest of the field like mouthy stepchildren, and we may win a hundred straight games. Or they could get battered like chicken.
This loss may be a fluke. This squad had many holes that even amateurs like myself can point them out- no shooters, no hatchet men, no role players, no defensive stopper. If the right people pick the team, we could stomp a mudhole in pretty much anyone. We have that kind of talent here, if the elite aren't scared to show. Kobe and KG go in 2010, and we whip the Argentinans like a government mule.
The second question can be answered independently of the first one. The first thing to look into is the differences between the NBA and FIBA games. Do we have the clout to force them to play it our way? I doubt it. It would be nice to alter their sports, from time to time. I'd introduce NHL-style fistfighting to Gymnsatics, and allow pentathletes to shoot at each other.
Would the NBA adopt the trapezoid lane, the zone, and all that goes with it? The big loser there would be Shaq, who would be forced to set up further out. Those slasher/scorers would also suffer- TMac, Vinsanity, Kobe, Carmello and their ilk would have a tougher time getting their shots. Still, we'd have a team that is better prepared for the international game.
The NBA dropped the zone to increase scoring. The lane is kept at its' present size to provide fans with an inside game. Would they suffer without these fixtures? Aside from Shaq Fu, there is no dominating inside scorer working our NBA. If there's ever a time to do it, it's now.
Lots of hassle involved, there. Imagine 100000000 American schools having to repaint their courts. Imagine Shaq trying to develop a Skyhook. Imagine Ray Allen as MVP. Imagine 5 or 10 NBA coaches who require translators. We'd be screwing with the basics of the game in a manner very much like having a Black Santa- we'd be bending the fundamental presentation of the sport.
Even then, we'd have problems. The NBA season runs right up to the Olympic season, and any team assembled would have little time to train as a team. There would be a long learning curve as the Yanks adapt to the new game.
There's the option of assembling teams with no other purpose than representing the US in international competition. These guys would be non-NBA, and would compete in whatever tournaments served to create that Argentina squad. This team could have several faces:
- The Recently Retired Guy Team
Imagine if Nike, Gatorade, Budweiser, AOL, Pepsi and so forth kicked in enough sponsorship to convince elder NBA guys to play a barnstorming schedule against the world's finest. Base the team in Hawaii, and trot out this lineup:
G- Jordan, Miller(coughretirecough)
G- Stockton, Kerr, Hardaway
F- Malone, Barkley, Rodman
F- Magic, Pippen
C- Robinson, Mourning
Sure, they'd be old, but they would be playing an easy schedule. We could re-stock the team every 4 years, before the World Championships. 2010 might have Shaq, Webber, Hill, Kidd and Jordan's last hurrah. As goofy as it sounds, we'd have a sweet talent pool, and they'd do it if Nike paid out enough ca-a-ash. Everybody has a price.
- The Prison/Drug Suspension Team
Accompanied at all times by shotgun-wielding state troopers, Kobe Bryant, Roy Tarpley, Gin Baker, Jayson Williams and the boys get a chance to gain amnesty by bringing home a gold medal. Sort of like The Dirty Dozen, minus the Nazis and with more marijuana. Ricky Williams has the size and speed to cover those pesky Argentinians as they come off screens. OJ can coach, and they are sent to Afghanistan if they lose.
- The Globetrotters or the And One tour teams.
We'd lose, but everyone would think we were cool again. The Globies even have the Look down already. I bet Yao Ming would fall for the ball-on-a-string trick time and time again.
- The Lotteryed
Select the Olympic team from teams that are eliminated from the NBA playoffs. If the NBA cooperates with an earlier end to the Olympic year seasons, the team could have a month off before starting 2-a-days in mid-May. Here's a rough draft of a lineup:
G- McGrady, Carter, Iverson, Allen, Arenas
F- James, Boozer, Brand, Maggette, Marion
C- Stoudemire, Dampier, Curry
Not much better than the Bronze Agers, but they'd have time to train. If a kick-ass #1 overall draft pick is available, he can be the 12th man. If Utah's foreign stars had knocked Denver out of the dance, they could add Carmello, Camby or Miller.
- The No Soup For You Team
A Nike-funded GM appraoches players left unemployed afterthe final cuts. This team would trade talent for a lengthy gelling period. If they get smoked by Andorra, the NBA can wash their hands of them.
- The Play For US Citizenship Team
Instead of wasting time worrying, we could just steal the best international players right before the Olympics. If the Defense Department would play along by stirring up trouble in certain nations around 2007 or so, we could be a player. A nice Russia/Lithuania border incident would cause Baltic talent to split like two aces, and China may be too crowded for Mr. Ming.
I can see why Genghis Khan never went East...