Friday, January 20, 2012

Sending our favorite NBAers to the Olympics?

The preliminary 20-man roster for this summer's Olympic Team USA was released this past Monday, and of course, BockerKnocker and I could not help but derive a spirited debate from it. In this one in particular, we discussed the merits (or demerits) of putting NBA players on active contracts into what essentially amounts to a series of souped-up exhibition games. As Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant both hold the keys to our respective NBA kingdoms, we had horses in this race. The specific question that spurred our latest frivolous waste of worktime productivity was: What is your stance on those two players going to play for Team USA in the 2012 London Olympics?

from: KOBEshigawa
to: BockerKnocker
date: Tue, Jan 17, 2012 at 4:17 PM
subject: Team USA

I'm of two minds with this:

On one hand, I'm thrilled that Kobe is going to London this summer and more than likely, will be chosen as a starter alongside either Derrick Rose or CP3, as well as incumbent Team USA starters LeBron, Carmelo and Dwight.

Being the red-blooded patriot that I am, I couldn't be happier than America's best baller (I said it) is taking time from his off-season schedule to participate. With the German HGH he got last summer, Kobe really has reinstated himself as the best 2-guard in the league, and his being on the team gives the US the best chance for winning it all. I actually care about the Olympics, and when we finish with anything but an unblemished record and a gold medal, I feel embarrassed.

Also, I'm also just a commonly paranoid Lakers fan that feels that Kobe still doesn't get his due. Despite probably cementing his status as one of the top 5 to 10 players of all time, he still is commonly pooped on, day-in and day-out, for shooting too much, being too stoic, playing too many minutes, cheating on his wife too much, whatever.

His reputation was never lower than in 2008 when he and the Lakers were embarrassed and destroyed by the Celtics in the Finals. And after joining the Redeem Team, alongside younger guys like LeBron, Melo, Dwight, and CP3, many people presumed the older and recently "devalued" Kobe Bryant would simply be a bit player in Coach K's puzzle. But it turned out quite opposite -- Kobe ended up being the "go-to" guy on the team, with all his supposed basketball "superiors" deferring to him in the final moments of the game. To top it off, Kobe took on the most difficult nightly defensive cover. After the Olympics, every guy on the team talked about how impressed they were with the much-maligned Kobe and his extraordinary work ethic. Much like this long-winded paragraph, the other members of Team USA (as well as the NBA watching world) were giving Kobe a massive amount of public props, which diverged from their usual compliments with caveats of how he's selfish, how he didn't deserve it, how other people contributed more to his success, etc.

Basically, I would really relish many more Kobe internet BJ sessions for the whole summer.

On the other hand, Kobe is a guy with a messed up knee, ankle, wrist and essentially his entire right hand. He needs about 4 different surgeries AND 3 months of rest, and competing for an extra month is really not the best thing for a 33 year-old who will be going into his 17th (!) season.

Even still, I wouldn't just be okay with Kobe on Team USA, I'd be ecstatic. You communist.

from: BockerKnocker
to: KOBEshigawa
date: Tue, Jan 17, 2012 at 4:35 PM
subject: Re: Team USA

Barring Coach K choosing to go really small (CP3-Wade-Kobe-LeBron-Dwight) or really big (CP3-Kobe-LeBron-Bosh-Dwight), Carmelo Anthony will be starting for Team USA. And under normal circumstances, I would be very proud of a Bocker donning the red, white, and blue. When Ewing started alongside Jordan, Magic, Bird, and Barkley, my 7-year-old eyes opened as much as the slits would allow. But this era is different. Since 1992, there are more NBA teams, and thus, more average athletes calling themselves professionals.

Carmelo is averaging 35 minutes per game thus far, but he's averaging 35 Mike D'Antoni minutes: the only time he's not moving on offense is when he sizes up the defense with the ball. He's taking tough shots against the best defender on the court at all times, and because the Knicks' defense has been mostly porous, he has had to work, often times single-handedly, to bring the team back into games. This season has already given him some slight injury problems; his right ankle has forced him to miss 1 full game and half of another, and he has been playing through a sore wrist on his guide hand (more important to a player's shooting form than you'd think). If Amar'e continues to have poor shot selection and an overall awful field goal percentage, the Knicks need Carmelo to shoulder the entire offensive load. Additionally, as the season goes on, D'Antoni's job will most assuredly be in jeopardy, even if the Knicks are winning. The selfish prick will thus continue to play Anthony as much as possible. After a jam-packed season, hopefully coupled with at least a 2-round playoff run, New York's most important athlete not born in Kalamazoo, Michigan will need his rest to gear up for the 2012-13 season, when a real coach will give the Knicks the best chance to win a title.

Not my type, but knock
yourself out, Melo.
Call me unpatriotic, call me communist. I deserve it. Because I would rather see Team USA forfeit gold if it meant that Carmelo Anthony was busy sticking it to LaLa all summer. Team USA takes up a month or two of my life every so often. When they lose, I feel disgustingly embarrassed just like you, but that subsides rather quickly because it's not really my team. The Knicks are my team; it's been that way since I first stumbled upon the MSG network as a young lad. If Carmelo were to suffer a gruesome injury that would sideline him for the upcoming NBA season, I would undergo far more pain than I would with a silver medal.

from: KOBEshigawa
to: BockerKnocker
date: Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 1:49 PM
subject: Re: Team USA

While injury is surely a factor, there's more to take into consideration than just that.

I've gotten to the point in my Lakers and Kobe fandom that Kobe is going to do what he wants to do. If he wants to play during the summer, he'll do it. If he wants to log 39 minutes a night, he'll do so. He'll play extremely hard during exhibition games and mid-March games against Golden State. And you know what? He's still pretty damn good. As much crap as everyone loves to lay at Kobe's feet for "doing too much of X", he seems to be making it through his 16th NBA season without a hitch. Everything he's done when he should be taking it easy (kept himself sharp with Team USA ball, always playing hard during games to perfect his craft and -- more importantly -- cement a sort of mental edge against his opponents, because they always know he's going to bring it) has really helped him in his career. I think I can quite accurately say that Kobe's willingness to do the "unecessary" has done nothing but help him since he was drafted.

Now I'm not saying that Carmelo is a freak like Kobe (genetically or otherwise), but I am saying that he's had a relatively healthy medical profile while playing less minutes and games than number 24. Melo doesn't really look like a paragon of physical fitness, but the guy keeps himself in pretty good shape and generally plays through injury. I really think being around other guys that are, quite frankly, much much better than him will really serve to motivate him like the Redeem Team did.

Do you remember his playoff run in '09 when he took the Nuggs to the Western Conference Finals? It was probably the first (and maybe only) time in Melo's career where I saw him be the defensive beast he's capable of, and turn into a type of Larry Bird throwback small forward who could do ANYTHING you asked him to on the court. Essentially, he was the player the Knicks need him to be if this team ever even dreams of winning a title.

And you know where this motivation came from? Being around Kobe and Bron and Wade and Dwight, and seeing how hard they all worked on defense and other aspects of the game that wasn't just elbow jumpers and ball fakes.

I think Melo NEEDS this. I think he NEEDS to be inspired again. Playing this summer might expose him to unnecessary injury. But I think it will also expose him to the professionalism he so sorely lacks.

from: BockerKnocker
to: KOBEshigawa
date: Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 2:45 PM
subject: Re: Team USA

Lost in the wilderness of arguing that Carmelo needs to be inspired once again, I'll hit up the problem which you brought up yourself. Melo is not Kobe. Nobody is. The reason I can never truly hate Kobe is because he cares about basketball more than any other human being alive. He doesn't obsess over his brand like LeBron. He doesn't bang high profile chicks that need attention like D-Wade (how was he supposed to know that the Colorado chick was a snitch?). He spends his time going to Nazi-land so they can infuse him with God-knows-what, just to prepare for basketball. Playing for Team USA wouldn't change too much of his routine, save for maybe the travel. Kobe spends so much time on basketball in the offseason, that you're right, you can't stop him from beasting it on his down time. He needs and craves the work just to be able to function as a person. So if playing with and practicing against America's best and brightest are an option, so be it.

Miss you guys! :(
Carmelo is different. Unlike Kobe, he's one of those guys that can't be happy unless his wife is happy too. He let LaLa influence him to the point where Madison Square Garden was the only place he could ever play. So instead of waiting for the season to play out, when he could sign with the team outright, it HAD to be then, in the middle of the season, which forced the Knicks to give up 2 fantastic young players in Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, and an end-of-the-rotation big in Timofey Mozgov. All of that tells me that EVERYTHING has to be right for him to succeed.

Sure, when Iman Shumpert comes up with a key steal, Melo rushes off the bench in exuberance to greet the kid. But last year in Denver, even though he played his heart out, he didn't care enough to root for his teammates to succeed as well. And that would never happen with Kobe. You need your teammates to succeed to win, and Carmelo never cared about winning in Denver once his mind was set on coming to the Apple. On the other hand, as much as you love him, Kobe would spit in your face if your mug was the roadblock between him and a win, and just for that, you love him even more.

Which brings me to Team USA. Melo knows what the deal is. He's played on countless NBA All-Star teams, and was an indispensable part of the Redeem Team. He doesn't need an extra go-round with those guys because that's not what propels him to do well. Being happy is what makes the Melo train take the express route. This year, he picks up his teammates when they fall to the floor (literally and figuratively), he's a fantastic cheerleader, and what's most surprising, he's backed Mike D'Antoni ever since he's arrived in New York. Everything is in place for him to succeed, it's just going to take some time. And if he plays this summer in a grueling 1-2 month stretch, an injury will halt all the progress we've made in the past year. Stay home and be happy Melo, we'll attack 2012-13 with a new coach who has substance to back up the style.

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