Basketball Scouting Resources • Recursos del Scouting del Baloncesto
Where mass tryouts could hurt a good thing
When it leaked out earlier this month that Chauncey Billups would be replacing Jason Kidd as the sage old veteran on the 2010-12 USA Basketball Men’s National Team heading into the 2010 World Championships, I as both a Nuggets fan and a basketball fan was ecstatic. My thinking was: who better to replace Kidd than a former NBA Finals MVP who has appeared in seven consecutive conference finals? And, what a nice way for Billups to cap off a terrific basketball career.
In agreement with my sentiments, the Denver Post dedicated an article to the announcement. We put up a post about it at Denver Stiffs. A number of readers wrote their own FanPosts about it. And Billups was recently honored before a Nuggets home game by a representative from Team USA with a pin of some sort.
This would all be fine and good if Billups were actually on the team.
Digging a little deeper into the story, it turns out that Billups hasn’t made the Team USA roster in any shape or form. He simply – along with 26 other outstanding NBA players – has been invited to try out for the team during a minicamp in Las Vegas from July 22-25th. (Give Team USA credit, they always do their try outs in Vegas, baby…talk about guaranteeing a full, if a bit hungover, head count.)
This unnecessary charade has gone unnoticed during the recent hullabaloo over who’s making the All-Star team, the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement nearing on the horizon and a refreshingly active NBA trade deadline. But trust me, having 27 All-Star caliber players competing for 12 Team USA roster spots is completely unnecessary and perplexing considering how well Team USA has been operated lately.
In 2005, former Phoenix Suns Chairman and CEO Jerry Colangelo took over a Team USA basketball program that current NBA Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Stu Jackson had successfully run into the ground. After years of lazily scrapping together men’s squads, our national team was lucky to have won the gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, were humiliated with a sixth-place finish at the 2002 World Championships (which took place in Indianapolis of all places) and finished with an embarrassing bronze at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
Colangelo rightly came in with a mantra that there would no longer be a haphazard, year-by-year approach to building the men’s team. Under Colangelo’s reign, the plan was for Team USA to be comprised of players who give a long term, multi-tournament commitment like we’ve seen with other successful national basketball programs in Argentina and Spain. By having one consistent national team that swaps in a few players here and there as players get hurt, old or retire, not only would the returning players be comfortable playing together, but younger players could get worked into the system slowly while the organization doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel every few years.
After Team USA secured a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, their first first-place finish in major international competition in eight years, it was evident that Colangelo’s plan worked. Of the 12 players on the 2008 Olympic roster, six had played together on the 2006 World Championship team that finished with a bronze and eight had played together on the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship team that dominated that tournament. So entering Beijing, having over half the roster intimately familiar with each other’s games was a clear advantage for Team USA. And yet even with their newfound cohesiveness, Team USA barely beat Spain in the gold medal game. In other words, the rest of the basketball world is still breathing down our neck…even when we do things the right way.
Having been through such a rewarding and fulfilling experience, nine players from the gold medal winning roster want in for the 2010 World Championships (to be played this summer in Turkey), the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship and the 2012 London Olympic Games. Nine. So why are 27 players, including those who have given up three out of their last four summers, trying out? Don’t we already have a national team?
First off, the nine who have made the commitment to "try out" again should get automatic roster spots. Colangelo has gone on record saying "special recognition and acknowledgment needs to go to the nine players returning from our 2008 Olympic Team." Special recognition and acknowledgment? These players have sacrificed their careers at the risk of a major injury for two-to-three offseasons and all they get is "special recognition" and a try out? Sorry, Jerry, but that’s not good enough.
Secondly, why would someone of Billups’ caliber and experience be asked to try out alongside the likes of O.J. Mayo, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook? Future great players all, but they’ve done nothing for the sport to date. If memory serves, Kidd wasn’t asked to try out but instead was given an invite to join the 2007 FIBA team. The same courtesy should be afforded to veterans like Billups who want to play.
Thirdly, the massive try outs should be held only for the remaining open spots plus two alternate spots after returning players plus a veteran spot gets filled. In this year’s case, there would in theory be two open spots, plus two alternate spots in case of injury. In future years, maybe there will be four or five open spots pending the offseason commitments and health of returning players.
I guess what I’m saying is, for the first time in almost a decade USA Basketball isn’t broken, so why fix it? It’s not like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams (over 50% of the past Olympics roster and presumed to be comprising the next Olympics roster) are aging veterans. And given the shape Kobe Bryant and Carlos Boozer – the other two returnees from The Redeem Team – are in, they’re the perfect veteran counterparts for the younger players who, frankly, aren’t that young anymore. Why risk insulting these exceptional players – and a classy veteran like Billups – by making them try out for the national team?
To Mr. Colangelo: keep it simple. Bring back the nine players who won us the gold in Beijing and want to participate again, add one invited veteran and let the youngsters like Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay and Danny Granger duke it out for the remaining two spots plus two alternate spots.
This way, no one gets embarrassed, no one gets insulted, no one’s time is wasted and, perhaps most importantly, a group of players that have already experienced success together can do so again. It’s the USA’s best way forward to remaining atop the international basketball world.From www.sbnation.com
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