We Watch the Fireworks That Frighten Babies

I realize that Donaghy is by far the story of the offseason so far and as a basketball blog we're probably legally required to weigh in on it in some way, but the truth is we mostly share Jones's and Shoals's indifference. We'll probably join the fray once the league's reaction necessitates it, but for now a ref making extra cash by calling some games a little tighter just isn't that interesting as a basketball fan. As someone fascinated by corruption and seediness, this story intrigues me a little, but only in ways tangentially related to the sport (at least until it's revealed that Uncle Wes is involved). What interests us much more for now is Team USA's fairly meaningless summer scrimmage. Here are some of our observations:

While it could have devolved into a less-watched All-Star Game, the fact that roster spots are up for grabs made Sunday's game significantly less like an exhibition game. Sure the play was sloppy at times and defense never seemed like that big a deal, but it never became the failed ally-oop fiesta we're used to seeing each February. Kidd agrees that league's finest managed to kick it up a notch for the event.

The biggest story of the game for me was definitely Durant. Playing with the best talents in the game, he didn’t look out of place at all. His offensive moves look entirely too polished for a guy that's not even really a rookie yet. His follow-up dunk made a joke out of anyone worried about the effect of his bench press on his offensive game. The footwork (and everything else) on his fastbreak spin move/baby hook was unreal (0:58 on the highlights). Luckily for the Sonics, who are otherwise bereft of scorers, he should have no trouble scoring immediately. He might have to average in the mid-20s out of pure necessity. We're growing increasingly annoyed by the Green pick; Yi would have fit much better with Durant. On D, Durant's length and speed should cause problems right away. Rebounding is the one area where his lack of strength will really hurt him early on, but he will definitely improve with time.

At this point Kobe's will to win is just absurd. Because I don't want to seem like any more of a Laker-homer than I have to, I'll quote my L.A.-hating colleague Ty: "He's clearly the best player in the NBA." I do believe his intensity and inability to ease up even in friendly scrimmages will be one of the key differences for this national team. He's one of the few guys who takes All-Star games completely seriously simply because he doesn't know any other way to play. He should have a field day from the international 3, and when he commits to being the best on-ball defender out there, he absolutely can be. I will say that off-ball on both ends of the court he generally looked sloppy and disinterested. If he’s guarding a 3-pt specialist like Mike Miller he can’t get lazy and sag. Similarly, on offense he continues to look way too prone to just stand around when the ball's not in his hands.

If Kobe's desire isn't enough to make the difference between this team and previous years, Kidd's presence could. He’s the perfect guy to unselfishly set up all the athletic youngsters for tremendous plays and keep all the egos happy. It'll be interesting to see if they carry three point guards. Kidd and Deron or Kidd and Paul could probably handle things just fine, but it'd be tough to narrow it down to two. Chauncey has no business here. If they want a combo guard, Arenas is really the only option.

Other random thoughts on rounding out the roster: After witnessing JJ Redick "perform," Colangelo should have informed Coach K that he has lost all roster-related decision-making power. And you thought Laettner was out of place in 92. . . . Should be interesting to see if they end up taking Michael Redd or Mike Miller as the three-point specialist. Miller played better yesterday, and I'm not sure he wouldn't be a better choice anyway because he's less likely to think himself a star. (Note: That point's entirely related to Redd making max money and has nothing to do with race.) . . . Chris Bosh needs to play a lot; his athleticism and skill set bring a combination that no one can match up with. Toronto will be in heavy rotation on the Plissken League Pass next winter. . . . Tyson Chandler is perfect for this team; they need to keep him on board for sure as the only guy who seems truly committed to rebounding.

How perfect Chandler is for this team brings us to our final point: how unnecessary LeBron is on this roster. Between Kidd's passing, Wade's slashing, Kobe and Melo's everything else, his skill set is pretty well represented already. His inability to consistently hit jumpers makes him a liability against zones, and with Kobe owning the first-option title he loses a lot of his value. His athletic ability is still unbelievable, but when every NBA wing can outrun and outjump every foreign wing, we don't see his edge there being that significant. There's no way Colangelo would ever have the guts to cut America's Chosen One, but this roster needs more guys like Chandler and Miller who can be effective without dominating the possession.

In the end, this scrimmage doesn't say a ton about the team's ability to win on the international stage. They didn't play a ton of zone, and when they did it wasn't exactly inspired. It's going to take a close game against foreign competition to see what this team's made of.

At least everyone knows who'll take the last shot.


Jason said...

Nice breakdown. I agree that Miller might be a better 11th- or 12th-man fit ... as long as he shoots better than 5-15 from the short 3-point line.

Ben Q. Rock said...

"At least everyone knows who will take the last shot."

Oh, no doubt. Mike Miller throwing a 50-foot oop to Dwight Howard from the right baseline. Am I right?

I like your take on Team USA, and specifically Global Icon's redundancy. Nice to see that not everyone is drinking the Kool-Aid.

Ty Keenan said...

The Painted Area post that was linked on True Hoop today made an interesting point about Durant being the designated shooter. Not a bad idea.

We might need to make the LeBron thing its own post at some point.