Magic, Big Bird, Stock and Malone, Pip, Barkley, Clyde, and some MJ dude; that’s how it all started. Those were the first basketball demolitionists. Before this “Dream Team” traveled to Barcelona in 1992, they learned the phrase, “Tu no puedes impedirme (You can’t stop me!),” and they said it all throughout the Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament until they won their gold medals.
They couldn’t be stopped, straight demolishing the international competition easier than a kid demolishes his lego-made house.
They were the truth. The NBA was the truth. The NBA is still the truth. We shouldn’t have been stopped and my mind is still in awe at the fact that we were. My thoughts are sweltering with a burning sensation of disappointment.
The eighth team featuring NBA players (not the eighth “Dream Team” because there is only one) lost three out of their last four games at the 2002 USA Men’s World Basketball Championships in Indianapolis and watched Yugoslavia win our gold. The 80-87 loss to Argentina Sept. 4, was the first time a U.S. team with NBA players lost, dating back to the “Dream Team”, a span of 58 games.
This USA team finished lower than any previous team in the 52-year history of the World Basketball Championships, and the peculiar part about it is that the tournament was played in the United States for the first time.
But why? How? I will ask again. Why? How?
Any NBA team from the Vancouver Grizzlies to the New York Knicks should be able to win gold in international competition. I could even jump out there and say that a team of any 12 starters in the NBA should be able to win in international competition. So why did Jay Williams, Raef LaFrentz, Reggie Miller, Ben Wallace, Antonio Davis, Elton Brand, Jermaine O’Neal, Shawn Marion, Baron Davis, Andre Miller, Michael Finley, and Paul Pierce lose not one, not two, but three games.
Two words, one name, George Karl.
The players clearly didn’t come to play. The coaching staff should always take the fall when a team losses to a team that is dramatically less talented then them in any sport.
Because of intense global scouting, currently the best players in the world play in the NBA and the USA team had 12 compared to 17 NBA players divided amongst the rest of the teams in the tournament.
Not one U.S. player made the All-Tournament Team.
Paul Pierce was the only U.S. player that had a chance at making that team. He led or co-led the USA team in scoring in eight of ten games. P squared also led or co-led in assists in four games. And for some reason (George Karl), he sat out the final 15:58 against Spain on Sept. 7 and watched his team lose, going a mediocre 3 of 16 from the field during that stretch.
Karl also let Baron Davis throw up three after three after three. Two thirds of all of his shots (44 of 66) in the tournament were three-points, when a quick guard like Davis should be able to get to the basket with ease.
The distribution of minutes was just terrible. Michael Finley averaged the most minutes! Elton Brand received less playing time than O’Neal, Marion, Davis, and Wallace, when he is clearly better then all of them. Wouldn’t you agree?
Yes, Karl only had these players for eleven days before the tournament, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for any of the aforementioned things. It could be an excuse for the lack of continuity on both offense and defense, and that’s it.
Let me stop rumbling on about this because I am so disappointed with the coaching staff that I could write a book about it. Well, maybe not a book.
The USA will be back, hopefully with a different coach.
– Ibram Rogers, 20, is a junior magazine production student from Manassas, Va. He is one of The Famuan’s assistant sports editors. He can be reached at email@example.com.